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Custody battle rages to decide fate of baby girl left behind by tragedy

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Otter Tail County, MN (WDAY TV) - An emotional and complicated child custody drama is playing out in an Otter Tail County Courtroom this week. It was a year and a half ago that a tragic murder-suicide took the lives of two Perham-area teenagers, 17-year-old Dylan Cox and 16-year-old Tabby Belmonte. The couple left behind a baby girl who is now two.

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Extra security was brought in to the Fergus Falls courtroom Tuesday because of the strong emotions surrounding the custody battle. The big question facing Judge Wally Senyk is: who is best to raise Emma, the toddler, now two, who lost both parents on that tragic March day in 2011?

The tension between Emma's grandparents is very evident. In fact during a recent court hearing, it is alleged members of one family called the others murderers as the families entered court.

As both families mourn the loss of Dylan and Tabby comes a bitter custody dispute over who is best to care for the couple's daughter. Dylan's parents have spent a significant amount of time raising Emma, while Tabby's mother has visitation. Although in court Tuesday, it was revealed she often canceled visits.

One of the pivotal moments during Tuesday's child custody hearing came when there were allegations of drug abuse and mental health issues against Tabby's mother, Grandmother Teeple, which prompted the family to have major concern over Emma's safety.

Josh Heggem, the attorney for the Cox family, described them as, "Good, kind, caring people that always wanted what is best for Emma, and that is what they are asking the judge in this case and we are confident he will do what is best in Emma's best interest."

While the attorney for Tabby Belmonte's family would not comment today, he will present arguments later this week as to why Tabby's mother, despite cries against it, should play a major role in raising Emma.

There is no jury on this case. Once arguments on both sides are made, Judge Senyk of Fergus Falls will make the ultimate call on who will raise Emma.

WDAY is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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