PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Linn County judge who oversaw divorce proceedings and a custody battle for an Albany couple sent a letter to the husband in the case, letting him know her heart aches for him after his wife was arrested for murdering their 3-year-old daughter.
Judge Rachel Kittson-MaQatish sent the letter to Scott Gasperino on May 9, more than two weeks after his wife, Rebekah Gasperino, 32, was arrested on April 23.
She was pulled over at around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 by an Albany police officer for a traffic violation. During the traffic stop, police received information she may be a danger to herself and others, including her child, according to authorities.
Other officers rushed to a home in the 2000 block of Sun Place SE in Albany and found her 3-year-old daughter Sophia dead inside.
Rebekah Gasperino was booked into jail on a first-degree murder charge. She also faces unlawful use of a weapon/aggravated assault and criminal mistreatment. She is being held without bail.
Rebekah Gasperino had filed for divorce and asked for full custody of Sophia in June 2020. That was denied.
Then Scott Gasperino sought full custody in September 2020 and said his wife was “observed to be unfit” to watch over Sophia. He claimed Rebekah was seen at a shelter “hearing voices and obeying said voices to make dangerous choices.”
On April 12, 2022, Rebekah Gasperino also made mental health accusations against her husband. She said his mental health was never addressed and was asking for a trial to settle their custody agreement.
“Scott told me he had a violent split personality years ago,” Rebekah Gasperino wrote in the letter to the judge. She said her husband’s friend had told her about a time he grew very angry and violent and that his friends had also told her about his split personality.
“When I say I worry about his mental health he says he’s worried about mine,” she wrote. “I feel like Scott is robbing me of parenting Sophia because of his claims about my mental health and I feel like he is not being fair.”
Rebekah Gasperino also claimed her husband abused her verbally and emotionally and controlled what she ate after their daughter was born.
Kittson-MaQatish answered the letter and said Rebekah Gasperino has a good attorney and that they’re waiting on documents to be sent to proceed with the divorce case.
It was the last correspondence Kittson-MaQatish sent in the case before Sophia was murdered.
In the letter she sent Scott Gasperino after his daughter’s death, Kittson-MaQatish said, “While there were competing claims between you and Ms. Gasperino asking for protection each from the other, it was clear early in the case, that you are a protective parent.”
She said Scott Gasperino was never bitter and that he was hopeful and patient with his wife. She said in their court hearings, he always sought to address his wife’s mental health while also trying to protect his daughter.
The judge stated twice that Scott Gasperino is a “good, good father.”
“Again, I am so sorry for the loss that you will suffer for a lifetime,” Kittson-MaQatish wrote.
She reminded him that his divorce case remains open and that he can begin proceedings again as soon as he’s ready. She said any agreement he and his wife reached regarding their home is no longer in effect.
In closing, she wrote, “When your divorce is final, if ever you want to talk about how the system, the court, or I could have helped protect Sophia more my door is open. Sophia will not be forgotten.”
Phillip Lemman, an Oregon deputy state court administrator, said a judge is allowed to send a letter like this. He said Kittson-MaQatish included both Rebekah Gasperino and Scott Gasperino’s attorney in the correspondence, so the letter was not kept from one side.
Oregon’s Code of Judicial Conduct states that “a judge shall not take any action or make any comment that a reasonable person would expect to impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in an Oregon court.”
“Judges are not prohibited from expressing empathy or emotional support toward a party in a case,” Lemman wrote in an email to KOIN.
KOIN 6 News asked if Kittson-MaQatish can still try the case after sending the letter. Lemman said the code directs judges to decide all matters assigned to them and they’re instructed to perform their duties fairly, impartially, and without bias or prejudice. The code also directs judges to disqualify themselves if they have a personal bias or prejudice.
Oregon law allows parties to file a motion to disqualify a judge if they feel they cannot get an impartial hearing before the judge.
Lemman said he generally does not see judicial correspondence in cases but has seen judges in treatment court sessions make supportive comments to a party in a case.
Below is the letter Judge Kittson-MaQatish sent Scott Gasperino on May 9, 2022:
Dear Mr. Gasperino,
Silence can leave so much room for misinterpretation. l am sorry for not reaching out to you sooner regarding Sophia. Because there is a criminal trial pending, I will have to limit my words yet still.
Please know that a day hasn’t gone by that I have not thought about you or Sophia. My heart aches for you and your family and l hope our community is surrounding you with love and strength.
While there were competing claims between you and Ms. Gasperino asking for protection each from the other, it was clear early in the case, that you are a protective parent.
ln this domestic relations case, you were never bitter. ln fact, you were hopeful and patient with Ms. Gasperino. We had several settlement conference and court hearings where the parties worked toward addressing safety concerns. Each time your concern for Sophia was tempered, measured, and hopeful seeking to address both Ms. Gasperino’s mental health, while also trying to protect Sophia.
Throughout this case, you provided excellent supervision for Sophia. Please know that you are a good, good father who was tasked with an impossible task. I am sure that you have rewound the tape of this case (your life) many times looking for the clues that would have brought a different outcome. I know I have. I have no doubt the attorneys involved and ODHS has as well.
At the April 1 hearing where the parties reached a resolution and you moved to withdraw your motion for an immediate danger order, I am reminded of what Ms. Gasperino’s attorney said on the record commending both you and your attorney for working together in a collaborative manner. He commended you specifically for your willingness to set aside any anger or frustration regarding the false allegations Ms. Gasperino made against you and your willingness to move back in the home for the protection of Sophia.
That was a fateful day in a two year long battle you shouldered to protect your child while gently balancing your wife’s mental illness. Don’t doubt for a minute that you are a good, good father. Again, I am so sorry for the loss that you will suffer for a lifetime.
Your divorce case remains open. It will sit here until you are ready, and you have the strength. Any agreement previously reached by the parties regarding the home is no longer in affect. Mr. Gasperino have your attorney reach out to the court when you are ready.
And, when your divorce is final, if ever you want to talk about how the system, the court, or l could have helped protect Sophia more my door is open. Sophia will not be forgotten.