Teddy was a healthy, normal infant whose neonatal scores were above average. She had no known congenital defects and subsequent tests showed no genetic flaws.
Mr. Coutsoukis suspended a successful business career where he had previously made a six-figure income to care for their baby girl. He nicknamed her Houdini, because, he said, she was "extraordinarily intelligent and athletic".
Within days of Teddy's birth, her mother filed for divorce in California and then made preparations for a move to Oregon, where she had accepted an executive position.
While Mr. Coutsoukis had already made arrangements for the move and had procured a beautiful new house for them, his spouse had decided to take Teddy and leave the father behind, only to relent after his pleas to let him care for their baby.
In November 1993 the family moved to Medford, Oregon.
In January 1994, Ms. Samora left the house, taking Teddy, and then evicted Mr. Coutsoukis with a family abuse restraining order. She placed Teddy in day care. Mr. Coutsoukis denied that he ever committed any violence and Dr. David Oas, the court ordered divorce evaluator, subsequently confirmed that in testimony.
Ms. Samora did not call back in response to my request for an interview.
According to Toni Hulse, (the Coutsoukises' housekeeper who saw her a week later) Teddy was withdrawn and not her normal self and she had a runny nose. She had also lost weight, she was very pale and she barely moved. "I had never seen her sick before" said Hulse. Mrs. Hulse continued that after Mr. Coutsoukis's return and under his care, Teddy became her usual smiling, babbling happy self.
Mrs. Hulse, who worked for the Coutsoukis family from November 1993 to September 1994, said that she observed Mr. Coutsoukis making baby food for and feeding Teddy, changing her diapers, bathing her, and playing with her. She also stated that she could tell "he loves the child very much...He takes excellent care of the child. He is a loving and very conscientious father."
The housekeeper also described Mr. Coutsoukis as Teddy's primary care giver and she said that she rarely saw Ms. Samora (who was pursuing a career outside the home). Mrs. Hulse testified that she had never seen Teddy in poor condition before Mr. Coutsoukis left the family home that January. She said that Mr. Coutsoukis nursed her back to good health over the next few weeks.
Hulse described Mr. Coutsoukis's situation as a difficult one. Ms. Samora had been hostile to him since Teddy's birth but the housekeeper said he took it in stride, not complaining but concentrating on his job as Teddy's 24-hour caretaker. He sometimes looked tired and overworked from having to stay up at night when Teddy awoke. Mr. Coutsoukis made "the greatest food" for Teddy, his spouse, Susan, and their guests. He also decorated the house with his art work and tended the flower garden in the spring and summer. This was Mr. Coutsoukis's "role" as the quiet, obedient, husband.
"I have always said that Teddy is a lucky girl to have Photius as a father," Hulse concluded.
One of Mr. Coutsoukis's complaints about the poor manner that Teddy was treated by her mother has to do with medical care. When Teddy needed a pediatric ophthalmologist, her father took her to Dr. Laurie Christianson of the Casey Eye Institute in Portland and to Dr. Craig Hoytt at the University of California San Francisco. They examined her gently without touching her or startling her. When her mother took her to a local ophthalmologist following Mr. Coutsoukis's eviction, he put metal clamps on her eyelids and examined her while her mother restrained then 3-month old Teddy. That ophthalmologist then reported that the baby was "uncooperative."
When it was time for Teddy to go to a dentist, her mother took her to one where she and two assistants held her down while her teeth were cleaned (see Dentist's report). Her father chose a dentist who let Teddy sit in Mr. Coutsoukis' lap while she was examined and allowed several breaks during the exam when Teddy wanted. She played in his office while she was there.
In July 1994 at 10 months of age (while on a visit to Greece) Teddy was diagnosed with serious developmental delays. Teddy was diagnosed by Dr. Helen Skouteli (a pediatric neurologist) who recommended a battery of tests including an EEG. Ms. Samora forbade her spouse to have the EEG performed, hampering early intervention into Teddy's medical problems. Mr. Coutsoukis meanwhile was reluctant to do anything that would antagonize his spouse, knowing the potentially catastrophic consequences of being separated from Teddy.
Upon return from Greece, Mr. Coutsoukis sought and began physical therapy for Teddy. Ms. Samora again asked him to move out. Mr. Coutsoukis began caring for Teddy daily at his own apartment while his spouse worked.
On October 6, 1994 Ms. Samora filed a divorce petition in Oregon.
While Mr. Coutsoukis begged his wife to negotiate an amicable divorce, warning that a legal battle would be hurtful to Teddy and cause financial catastrophe, she had already retained a local attorney (he referred to her as a "child destroying slut") who refused all communication with him unless he retained a lawyer himself. Mr. Coutsoukis said that the lawyer, Christina Sanz, later on proceeded to "charm" his lawyer "into collusion".
While earning what amounts to an exceptionally high income for the area, Ms. Samora insisted that Mr. Coutsoukis go to work or never see Teddy again. While preferring to be a full-time stay-at-home parent, he started a home based business and hired a staff. He cared for Teddy in his new home from 8:00 a.m. until Ms. Samora picked up Teddy after work each day and oversaw her rehabilitation.
In August 1995 Ms. Samora observed three seizures in Teddy and finally had the EEG done at Rogue Valley Medical Center.
Teddy began receiving seizure medication prescribed by Dr. Helen Skouteli, the pediatric neurologist who had first examined Teddy 13 months earlier.
A month later Ms. Samora unilaterally reduced the number
of hours Mr. Coutsoukis could care for Teddy in his home to every
weekday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and just "his"
weekends or in other words, when she so decided.
In November 1996 (after nine months of resistance) Ms. Samora finally relented and the parties began a court-ordered custody evaluation of both parents and the child by Dr. David Oas (a licensed clinical therapist, and a clinical psychologist with 25 years of experience).
In February 1997 Dr. Oas indicated that he would recommend that custody be given to Mr. Coutsoukis. He said that he based his decision on "the strength of Teddy's biological and emotional attachment to her father." He noted that "Teddy is an at-risk child who has significant delays in development and that I believe Mr. Coutsoukis is the best parent and best person to provide in-home parental care of Teddy with his capacity to use specific skill-building strategies to offset the significant behavioral deficits she exhibits." He added that such in-home care is preferable to out-of-home care for a child with Teddy's needs.
Ms. Samora refused to undergo psychometric tests and denied
Dr. Oas access to her recent psychiatric records.
In court ordered mediation, which Ms. Samora also resisted, in December 1996, an agreement was signed by which Mr. Coutsoukis gave his estranged spouse temporary custody of Teddy provided that she would spend her days with her father as was done previously. The agreement also required that she would discuss educational and medical decisions with the father before implementation.