CHARLESTON – A Dunbar man has lodged a complaint against a Kanawha family law judge alleging the judge not only failed to consider evidence of his ex-wife's bigamy during their divorce, but also failed to forward to information to police.
On May 2, Jim Canterbury filed a complaint with the state Judicial Investigation Commission against Judge Mike Kelly. In his complaint, Canterbury alleges Kelly ignored proof that his ex-wife, Jacqueline, was not only still legally married to another man when she and Jim got married, but that she also married him under a false name.
Also, Canterbury alleges Kelly refused his request to refer the matter to police to conduct an investigation.
"He said, 'I don't refer nothing to nobody'," Canterbury said.
A 41-year deception
According to Canterbury, 64, a manufacturer's sales representative, his ordeal began in 2005 when his eldest daughter, Jacqueline Ann Sowards, lost her driver's license. When she discovered Jim's name was not listed as her father on her birth certificate, Canterbury said he told her that while he was her biological father, he and Jacqueline had an affair while she was still married to Michael Howard.
After Jackie was born on June 9, 1965, Canterbury said both he and Jacqueline moved from Maine to Charleston. When Jacqueline told him she found out Howard divorced her, she and Jim were married at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Dec. 12, 1965.
However, it was not until almost 41 years later that Canterbury said he learned that the divorce between Jacqueline and Michael Howard was not finalized until October 30, 1967. Also, the woman he knew as Jacqueline Ann Thompson married Howard under the name of Carol Ann Durden, and had four children by him.
Canterbury learned all this he said with the help of H.E. "Gene" Sigman, a private investigator. A background search on her only took Sigman to 1965.
When he confronted her with the information, Canterbury said Jacqueline denied living a double life.
"'You know who I am,'" was Jacqueline's reply, Canterbury said. "'We've been married for 41 years.'"
Despite her denials, Canterbury said he informed Jacqueline of his decision to make a trip to Maine and Boston to find the truth. Two months later, she filed a domestic violence protective order against him.
According to Canterbury, though Kelly declined to extend Jacqueline's order for protection, he did order Jim out of their marital home since she was still "afraid of him." Following their hearing on the protective order, Jim said he filed for divorce.
After filing for divorce, Canterbury said he informed Kelly he would be in New England during the week of Sept. 10, 2006. However, in his complaint, Canterbury said Kelly went ahead and scheduled a hearing on September 12 which he did not learn about until his secretary called him that morning.
Without the assistance of any legal counsel, Canterbury said he participated in the hearing via telephone.
After presenting the certified copies of the birth certificates and divorce papers to Kelly, Canterbury said the divorce "should have been a closed deal."
In addition to his complaint, Canterbury provided a copy of those papers to The West Virginia Record.
When Kelly ignored the papers, Canterbury said he then had to borrow money from his company to hire an attorney.
"Financially, it's cost me close to $15,000 in legal fees when it should have cost only $2,500 for the domestic violence protective order," he said.
'Anything but justice'
When contacted for a comment, Kelly acknowledged receiving Canterbury's complaint from JIC, and filing a timely reply.
However, he said he didn't know if it was proper to discuss his reply unless Canterbury either signed a release or turned a copy over to the media.
Nevertheless, Kelly said both Canterburys signed their final divorce decree in January 2007.
According to Canterbury, he's not received a copy of Kelly's reply.
The only communication he received from JIC was a letter acknowledging his complaint.
However, Canterbury said after calling JIC recently, he found out they would hold their next meeting in September. Regardless, if they find any merit to his complaint, Canterbury says the entire ordeal has made him very cynical of the legal system.
"I've lived for 60 some years thinking that if you come before a judge you will get justice," he said. "Anything but justice happened in this case."