PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Judge Joseph Murphy tried to encourage the family of a 4-year-old boy who was the face of an Amber Alert in Jupiter this August to resolve guardianship issues on their own, but with neither side willing to bend, the judge began the painful process of determining the boy's fate.
"I want to get this done. I think it's dragged on long enough," said Murphy.
In August, Jupiter police made the child's grandfather, Louis Caprio, and his wife Elizabeth Caprio suspects of an Amber Alert. In interrogation videos with police after the child was returned, Elizabeth discussed the decision to take the boy and expressed the whole situation got blown out of proportion.
They are no strangers to the boy, they took care of him for nearly a year where they live in Miami while his mother got help for substance abuse. This summer, Danielle Caprio had her son turned back over to her and was caring for him full time in Jupiter.
On the stand, Elizabeth Caprio discussed the history of Danielle's battle with addiction and mentioned that in August she received a call from someone concerned about Danielle who forwarded her screenshots of alleged conversations with Danielle revealing that she was abusing drugs again.
The credibility of the screenshots was argued about thoroughly in court, Danielle's attorneys arguing there is no way to verify when the conversations happened referring to them as Facebook message screenshots.
"It's a Facebook app, not a Verizon app," argued Danielle's attorney Sandor Genet.
"I'm going to have to call a child in to explain all of this," said Murphy jokingly.
Elizabeth Caprio took the judge back to the day she planned an intervention after seeing the alleged screenshot conversations. She said she went to the Jupiter home and Danielle was not there. Her nanny, Blanca Castro, who was also a suspect in the Amber Alert and arrested but later had the charge against her dropped, was at the home. Caprio claims she found a suitcase belonging to a man the nanny, who was hired by the Caprios, described as aggressive.
"I packed two small overnight bags for Dominic. I told Blanca, the housekeeper, to get her stuff and leave. I called my husband and told him I didn’t think it was smart of me to confront them together and I left a note saying: Danielle I have Dominic. I sent Blanca home, we need to talk," said Elizabeth Caprio.
That note never came up when police initiated the statewide Amber Alert for the boy.
The Caprios also had the child's daycare teacher in Miami to talk about the boy's behavior when he lived with them.
"He was a young, vibrant, 3-year-old child, happy, excited to be in school, loved learning, a hugger," said Alba Olivas, who said the boy was in her classroom.
The teacher also testified his behavior changed after he spent time with his mother.
"He returned disrespectful, not polite, some times talking back to his teachers," said Olivas.
Danielle's attorneys argued couldn't this also be behavior from a child who does not get to see his mother often and misses her. Elizabeth agreed it's possible.
Danielle's attorney pressed the point that his client made the decision to re-enter rehab in August after the Amber Alert situation and asked her mother to watch her son. She obtained an order from a judge granting guardianship to her mother, but that's when her father convinced a judge to give the boy to him and have guardianship decided in Florida courts.
Once testimony concludes, a judge will decide whether the child is dependent and who he should be placed with.