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OLD LITTLE GIRL LOST

According to Chris, Alexis sank into funks only after speaking with the Bucks on the telephone. The custody order had included a requirement that Alexis be allowed to speak with Don and Debra weekly, but Chris insists that the Bucks used these conversations to belittle him--a charge the Bucks deny.

Late in 1993, Chris cut off phone contact between Alexis and the Bucks, and his decision to do so was later validated by Judge Garofolo. Garcia also recommended that calls be discontinued until Alexis was more capable of dealing with the deaths of Julie, Gloria and Ron. Contact through the mail had been okayed, but that, too, ended in a bitter dispute. As before, the warring parties were at each other's throats, with Alexis stuck in the middle.

In the meantime, Chris was getting regular reminders from Seth Grossman about thousands of dollars in outstanding legal bills. Fortunately, the attorney saw a possible solution. In a late October 1993 letter, he wrote Chris that he had been contacted by The Montel Williams Show. The program's staffers were interested, and while Grossman noted that "the program will not pay you," he added that "if we are serious about raising money to cover [your] expenses, this is a good beginning." In a matter of days, Chris agreed to fly with Alexis to New York to tape a show. Don and Debra Buck say they initially turned down an offer to appear on Montel but ultimately acquiesced because they didn't want the Perrys' point of view to go uncontested.

The program, taped in early November and broadcast shortly thereafter, was fiery. In addition to Chris and the Bucks, appearances were made by two friends of Julie's, including Pam Koch, who spent much of the show yelling at Don and Debra Buck. During the program, Koch claimed that Julie's sexual relationship with Don had been ongoing, not a one-time pairing, and that Julie had told her that Don was going to leave Debra for her. Koch also said that Julie had asked her, not the Bucks, to care for Alexis and Gloria in the event of her death, precipitating a heated exchange in which Don said Pamela "is even less capable of telling the truth than Mr. Perry is."

Just as blunt was Robert Storkson, who was seen via satellite from Denver. When asked who he thought was best suited to caring for Alexis, he said, "Me first, Chris Perry second, the other five billion people on Earth, and then Don Buck."

"There were definitely edits in the show, which gave a slant toward Mr. Perry," Don Buck says--and indeed, Williams and the studio audience seemed to side with Chris. Williams concluded the program by opining that a ruling had been reached and that everyone involved should simply step back and give Alexis a chance to go on with her life.

The Bucks did not take Williams's advice. In statements made before the trial, both had implied that they would not appeal the court's decision. Today, Don clarifies his comments: "What I said was that we would not appeal any decision made by the court providing it was in the best interest of Alexis. And we believe that the decision was not in Alexis's best interest. We waited until the last possible day, hoping against hope that a relationship of a positive nature would develop between Alexis and her father and that we would be proved wrong. Sadly, the opposite came to pass, and we were left with no other decision but to initiate an appeal."

According to Arlene Gilbert Groch, the Bucks' attorney, the appeal is based in large part on the argument that "the judge applied the wrong standard when he refused to decide the case on what was in Alexis's best interests." A deposition signed by the Bucks characterizes Perry as an irresponsible, neglectful, often unemployed man with little understanding about how to help Alexis deal with the loss of Julie, Ron and Gloria.

The document concludes, "We failed to give our lawyer and the court the name of Chris Perry right away out of our belief that it was necessary to do so to protect Alexis, i.e. to keep our promise to Julie. We were wrong. But, after all Alexis has been through in her short life, she deserves to be allowed to live with the people whom she loves, imperfect as we may be."

Predictably, reports about how Alexis is doing today vary widely, depending upon who is delivering them. Even though the Bucks haven't had any contact with Alexis since April 1994, they continue to believe that Chris is too deeply flawed to give Alexis everything she needs. Meanwhile, Alexis has received excellent progress reports. Garcia, in an updated report from March 1994, wrote, "Alexis appears to be adjusting to life with her father. Her mood has improved, although at times she still demonstrates sadness and irritability."

Among the things still weighing on Alexis, Chris says, is the prospect of having to testify against Clarence Reaves, who has been in jail awaiting trial for the murders for nearly eighteen months. As for Chris, he is not currently working. He claims that he decided to take the summer off in order to help Alexis deal with these issues. "I'm doing okay right now," he says, "but since Alexis is back in school, I'm sure I'll be getting a job really soon."

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