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Family members battle for custody of child after father accused of murder

Published May 5, 2014

CLEARWATER — The custody of a 7-year-old girl remains uncertain a month after her father was accused of killing her grandmother at their Clearwater home.

The girl's mother, Tracey Lohoski, and grandfather Edward Lohoski are fighting each other for custody after 34-year-old Matthew Lohoski, Tracey's ex-husband and the child's father, killed his 59-year-old mother, Deborah, in the back yard of her home at 1709 El Trinidad Drive E in Clearwater while the girl played inside, police said.

Matthew Lohoski remains in the Pinellas County Jail on a first-degree murder charge.

At a hearing Tuesday, Tracey Lohoski's attorney, Margaret O'Neill, told a judge that the mother and daughter have only had two visits since the week of Lohoski's arrest.

"This is just creating estrangement," O'Neill said. "She needs to see her."

Christine Payne, attorney for the guardian ad litem program, said at the hearing that the 7-year-old has been seeing a therapist since 2011. The girl's therapist said the child feels a "sense of abandonment" by her mother, Payne said.

"The child is overwhelmed with emotions and needs to have some time to address all of these, and the therapist is simply saying that it would be best for the mother and child to be in a therapeutic setting," Payne said.

Judge Lorraine M. Kelly agreed to allow a therapist to evaluate the mother and daughter separately later this week to decide if a therapist will sit in on future visits between the mother and daughter.

Edward Lohoski, who has temporary custody of his granddaughter, said during the hearing that Tracey has been regularly in touch with the girl.

"Her mother calls her and talks to her most nights," he said.

"They are brief phone calls in most cases. And I don't stop them. I just monitor them."

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