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Kristy Ragsdale

PROVO — The sister of a man accused of killing his wife in an LDS church parking lot is seeking temporary custody of the couple's two sons while the courts decide which side of the family should be given permanent custody.

Kristi Ragsdale is the sister-in-law to Kristy Ragsdale, who was fatally shot Jan. 6 in Lehi. Police say David Ragsdale — Kristy's husband and Kristi's brother — was the shooter. He has been charged in 4th District Court with aggravated murder and is being held at the Utah County Jail.

After the shooting, Kristi Ragsdale was allowed by police officers to stay with 4-year-old Brandon Ragsdale and 1-year-old Carter Ragsdale "to provide security and comfort," according to an affidavit Kristi Ragsdale filed with the court Monday. Her statements were part of a motion requesting temporary custody of her nephews.

She states the police later released the boys to her and she took them home, staying in frequent contact with Kristy Ragsdale's mother, Ann Palizzi.

"Through these discussions, Ann and I determined that the boys were best served by remaining in my custody and care," Kristi Ragsdale writes.

But on Jan. 20, 2008, Kristi Ragsdale said that attitude shifted when she was confronted by Palizzi, who told her the Ragsdales would have nothing to do with the boys because she would "not allow there to be two more Davids," according to the affidavit.

Palizzi also said she wanted to make the guardianship "nasty," expensive and that she would "drag out all the Ragsdale family secrets," according to Ragsdale's affidavit.

Less than a week later, Ann Palizzi filed an affidavit and a request for temporary custody, which was granted in an emergency decision by the court.

The Ragsdale family disagrees with that decision and plans to make that clear at a custody hearing Thursday in 4th District Court. They also filed Monday an official objection to the appointment of Palizzi as the boys' guardian.

"Ann and Albert Palizzi reside in Seattle, Washington, and will be unable to provide the children with the reasonable continuity necessary to recover from the tragic events of the recent past," according to court documents. "Furthermore, Ann Palizzi is understandably in fragile emotional health ... and physically ill-equipped to care for the children properly."

One of the Palizzis' concerns about allowing the boys to stay with the Ragsdales was that John Ragsdale, Kristi's husband and David's brother, had reportedly said his priority was raising money to help David.

However, John Ragsdale stated in his affidavit that although he originally felt that way, his priorities have changed. He stated he has removed himself from any responsibility to help his brother obtain legal counsel and revoked the power of attorney David gave him.

"The children's interest are my first priority and I have removed myself from any activities dealing with David's criminal charges," he wrote.

The Ragsdale family said they believe that Kristi Ragsdale, based on her time spent with the boys from their infancy, as well as her nearly nine years experience in the social-work field, would make her an excellent guardian.

"I love both Brandon and Carter as if they were my own children, treat them as if they were my own children and would continue to do so were I granted temporary guardianship of them," she wrote. "Brandon and Carter are extremely comfortable with me and we have a close, loving relationship. They know me and my home very well and they respond to me as a parental figure in their lives."

However, along with requesting temporary custody, the Ragsdales also acknowledged that a neutral third-party needs to be involved in the case and have requested a court-appointed custody evaluator.

"The circumstances into which the children have been thrust cries out for the court to exercise its authority and to appoint a custody evaluator," according to the motion.

The custody evaluator would be able to review the positive and negative qualities of each party seeking guardianship and make the best recommendation to the court.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com