• Girls allegedly threatened by family suicide pact to stay in foster care


    MELBOURNE, Fla. - Friday a Brevard County judge heard from the grandmother of two children who had been rescued from an alleged suicide pact.

    The Florida Department of Children and Families launched a search for the two girls and their parents after they vanished from a Melbourne autism treatment center earlier in the week.

    The family was later found in California.

    Sandra Firth came to the Brevard County Courthouse hoping she would get temporary custody of her grandchildren, 2-year-old Kiah and 4-year-old Kristin. That didn't happen.

    "We're talking about a suicide pact. Certainly, judge, you don't have a lot of margin for error in this case," the children's Guardian ad Litem told the judge in court.

    The report of that alleged suicide pact came out of a report to Melbourne police.

    They said they were told the children's parents, James and Mai Firth, made threats to kill the children and themselves if their money for Kristin's autism treatment ran out, or if Kristen didn't show improvement during her treatment.

    It took several days to track down the family in California, where DCF took custody of the children. They were placed with a foster family.

    Julie Pierce, the Firths' attorney, told a judge Friday that the children should be with their grandmother, who lives in Ormond Beach.

    "They know their paternal grandmother," Pierce told the judge.

    But, neither the state nor the children's appointed guardian believed that was the best option and asked Sandra Firth some very pointed questions.

    "You saw the parents every day? They lived with you also?" Firth was asked.

    "Yes," Firth replied.

    "Is it your testimony you don't believe that they had that suicide pact?" Firth was asked.

    "I don't believe that," said Firth.

    Judge Jeffrey Mahl said he will let James and Mai Firth explain the situation themselves on Monday.

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    Girls allegedly threatened by family suicide pact to stay in foster care