PROVO — Two young boys orphaned after police say their father gunned down their mother in an LDS church parking lot have been permanently placed with their maternal grandparents.
After a nearly nine-hour mediation on Oct. 30, both sides have agreed that Brandon David Ragsdale, 5, and Carter John Ragsdale, 2, will live with Ann and Albert Palizzi in Washington.
"Everyone there was looking out for the best interests of Brandon and Carter," said guardian ad litem William M. Jeffs, who served as voice for the children. "Everyone was really trying to make sure that what they felt was the best for the kids was happening."
Attorneys said the custody arrangement was an important healing step for two families torn apart after police say David Ragsdale fatally shot his wife, Kristy, in a Lehi parking lot on Jan. 6.
"We were able to resolve the wrongful death case, we were able to resolve the custody dispute," said Ragsdale's defense attorney Dusty Kawai. "In my opinion, the last piece of the puzzle to help all parties involved go forward and heal, is for us to resolve the criminal case. It would be tragic if this had to go to trial."
Kawai said Ragsdale is willing to take responsibility, yet Kawai's view and prosecutors' views of the case are still a "bit off," he said. He said they'll continue to talk.
Ragsdale is charged with aggravated murder, which carries the potential for the death penalty, and two felonies of domestic violence in the presence of a child.
Meanwhile, in the Utah County Jail, Ragsdale is "at peace" with the knowledge that his two boys will be taken care of by their grandparents, Kawai said.
"As we talked through these issues with David, he was very emotional and very understanding," Kawai said. "He is very comfortable ... knowing (Palizzi) will be the guardian of his two boys."
After Kristy's death and David's incarceration, Palizzi was granted temporary custody of the children while the court decided permanent status. Ragsdale's brother and sister-in-law, John and Amy Ragsdale, also petitioned the court for custody.
"Since the children's birth, Amy and I have developed close bonds with Brandon and Carter," John Ragsdale wrote in an affidavit filed in 4th District Court. "The boys have spent a lot of time with Amy and me, and the boys are comfortable in my home."
Although the specific order and stipulated details of the guardianship were sealed by a judge, Jeffs did say that John and Amy Ragsdale were granted visitation rights several times a year. Other visits can be granted as the Palizzis see fit.
Multiple calls to John and Amy Ragsdale's attorney were not returned.
Jeffs said he believed that after the mediation, which was conducted in four separate rooms with a go-between mediator, everyone left fairly satisfied.
"They're very happy that it's resolved and that they can go home," said Lorie Fowlke, the Palizzis' attorney. "There have been some struggles, but I think the parties have tried really hard to come together."
Fowlke said Ann Palizzi, who has been living in Lehi with the children, was grateful for the community support for the children, which often came from complete strangers.
The settled wrongful death suit, which Kawai alluded to, allows all of Ragsdale's assets to be turned over to the children.
Without admitting any fault, Ragsdale allowed the default judgment of $1 million to be entered against him. Not that he has that much money, but if any additional assets are found, they would go to his children, Jeffs said.