Special Reports

Experts: No Brame children visits

The late Tacoma Police Chief David Brame's parents want to visit his two children, but a psychologist and a court-appointed guardian say they shouldn't yet because Haley and David Brame Jr. fear their grandmother, Beverly Brame.

"Haley is adamant about not seeing her grandmother Brame," says guardian Tanya Pemberton. "David is afraid of his grandmother."

Psychologist Philip Frank made his recommendation after meeting with 8-year-old Haley Brame 18 times and with 5-year-old David Jr. 19 times since March, when their mother, Crystal, filed for divorce from David Brame.

Brame killed his wife and then himself April 26 while the couple's children were in a nearby car.

Pemberton, who is an attorney, asked Frank to help her in drawing up a plan for how the children could best heal. She says the Tacoma psychologist should guide any contact between the Brame family and the children.

Thursday, a judge will hear Pemberton's recommendation that the children's legal guardians be Crystal Brame's sister, Julie Ahrens, and her husband, David.

Crystal and David Brame chose Julie Ahrens in their wills as the person to care for their children if they died.

Frank's letter to Pemberton and her recommendations to the judge describe two youngsters traumatized and fearful after seeing years of abuse that culminated with their parents' deaths.

Frank, a psychologist for 30 years, emphasizes in his July 28 letter that he was writing as the the children's therapist, and that he had never met any of the Brame family.

"I can only report what I have been told by Haley, David Jr. and Crystal," Frank writes. "Based on my extensive contact with both the children and their mother, I have every reason to believe that what they have said to me is accurate."

David Brame's father, Eugene, said Monday that his wife was too upset to comment on Frank's letter. He denied she had ever struck the children and said he and his wife love them.

"This has always been the most loving family that you can ever run across," he said. "Bev has been the most wonderful mother and grandmother all of her married life. She adores those kids, as David did."

Eugene Brame said his grandchildren's fear was planted by their mother.

The Brame family's attorney, Don Powell, said he hasn't given up on getting them visitation rights which they have sought informally, through attorneys.

"Part of my goal," Powell said, "will be to have the Brames meet with Dr. Frank and let him get a fuller picture, so he's comfortable in recommending that the children resume contact with their whole family, not just half of it."

Pemberton recommended in a recent court report that the children remain living with Crystal Brame's parents, Lane and Patty Judson, for a while for stability before moving into the Ahrenses' house.

Crystal Brame's family, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment but released a statement by Julie Ahrens that said, in part:

"My husband and I will continue to support my family's primary goal to offer the children a safe, stable and loving environment and help them come to grips with this tragedy. ... I speak for my husband and parents in saying that they will remain the center of our lives and we will shower them with love and attention."

Frank's letter says that even before the April 26 shootings, "a continuing and repeated theme in their (the children's) therapy sessions was their fear of their paternal grandmother and their strong desire to not have to see her at all."

Both children said they had seen their father threaten their mother's life, Frank says.

"On at least one occasion, both children had witnessed their father pointing a loaded gun at their mother while threatening to murder her," Frank says.

"On other occasions, Haley heard her father screaming death threats in the next room. Both children also heard their father tell their mother, 'I'll see you dead before I'll give you any of my money.'"

Franks says neither child expressed fear that their father would hurt them, but both said they were afraid he would make them visit "Grandma Brame."

They said they feared Beverly Brame would continue to be physically violent with them, Frank said.

Crystal Brame told Frank that Beverly Brame refused to stop physically disciplining the children. The psychologist says she told him her husband eventually told his mother not to hit the children.

Haley and David also were upset that their father pressured them to recant their stories of being hit, slapped and bruised by his mother, Frank says.

"Both children also stated that their paternal grandfather was 'nice' but he did not protect them from 'Grandma Bev,'" Frank says.

His letter also says David Brame insisted the children kiss assistant police chief Catherine Woodard and tell her they "loved her." That upset the children, Frank says, because they knew their mother feared Woodard and thought she had tried to intimidate their mother.

Woodard said Monday she could not comment on the matter.

Haley Brame told Frank that during family visits her father treated her "just like he did my mom" - monitoring her phone calls and activities, even in the bathroom.

Frank says seeing the Brame family could be therapeutic for the children in the future. Haley has said she'd like to see her uncle, Gene Brame, his wife and their teenage sons.

"After all, Haley and David Jr. are both Brames themselves," he said. "Therein lies the dilemma."

Frank recommends working with the Brames to establish guidelines for contact with the children and that the first contacts be with Gene Brame and his family.

But Frank worries about some of the family's comments in The News Tribune. David Brame's parents have said they believe he "snapped" after years of abuse by his wife. His sister, Jane Brazell, has called him an "angel on earth."

"I know that progress can be made," Frank says. "However, cold-blooded murder can not be explained away, especially by blaming the victim. ...

"My approach will be to help the children see that, if their father had made the choice to get the psychological help that he needed, then perhaps he would have been able to make better choices in his life."

David Brame's parents and his two brothers and sister have told Pemberton they love the children and want to see them.

"Those kids," Eugene Brame said, "every time they came to visit us or our children, it was just always a wonderful time, just as a loving family should be. Absolutely no problem at all."

Karen Hucks: 253-597-8660