PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - Manuel Morales' voice cracks with emotion when he talks about his two young sons.
"They need to know that I have their back every single time," he said.
But in April, police took away his sons, age 7 and 11, after his ex-wife, Bozena "Joanna" Gajda-Morales, filed an injunction for protection for domestic violence, alleging that he had a "violent outburst" at their son's school, that he had threatened her, that he had "mental issues and a domestic violence record," that he had armor-piercing bullets and that she feared for the kids' safety.
The Pembroke Pines Police Department responded with the seriousness due to such allegations with a show of force at Morales' home.
"They got, like, 11 cars outside, SWAT team is out there and they took the children," Morales said.
But the ensuing investigation by Pembroke Pines police Detective Mike Silver determined Gajda-Morales' sworn allegations were a pack of lies, that she had no reason to fear of Morales, that he no armor piercing bullets and no domestic arrests in his past. Silver found that Gajda-Morales had in fact "filed a false affidavit ... for domestic violence ... in order to take custody of the children."
"My investigation revealed that Bozena was not in fear for the lives of her children and her own, but was angered at the fact that she was not permitted to take custody of the children on the date of the alleged incident," Silver wrote in his report.
"She lied in court," Morales said. "For what? To get the children."
Silver presented a criminal case against Gajda-Morales to the state attorney's office, which chose not to file charges but recommended that Silver notify the Broward Sheriff's Office about it. Why? Because Gajda-Morales is a BSO deputy, with a badge and gun, sworn to protect and serve.
"Now that she's a BSO and she's a cop, she always tells me, 'BSO trumps everybody,'" Morales said.
Morales said he's baffled at how the BSO could have ever hired his ex-wife in the first place. He provided records to Local 10 News that show she has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and that in 2009 she was hospitalized under the Baker Act after being found passed out after a mixture of prescription medication and wine. A Children's Services Council document shows that a guardian ad litem was recommended for their two sons due to the eldest son's "reports of verbal and emotional abuse and past physical abuse by his mother."
It was because of some of these factors, Morales said, that he was given custody of the boys in the first place. He said his ex-wife now owes thousands of dollars in child support.
"If I was the deadbeat parent and didn't pay child support and it was the other way around, I would probably be locked up," he said.
When Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman asked Gajda-Morales about allegedly lying in the court injunction, she challenged the detective's findings.
"He put his personal opinion in," she said. "He's never interviewed me. He never gave me an opportunity."
But police reports directly contradict Gajda-Morales. She came to the police department April 10 and submitted to a sworn interview with Silver, according to those reports. During that interview, Silver wrote that Gadja-Morales initially said she was fearful of Morales.
"But during further questioning it was revealed that she had no reason to believe that he was capable of harming them," Silver wrote in his report. "Bozena stated that the children are not afraid of Manuel and love him. Bozena stated that Manuel was never violent toward the children."
Further, Bozena told Silver that she had called 911 at the school that day and "stated that she needed help because Manuel was threatening her and that she was in fear for the lives of her children and her own."
But when Silver got an audiotape of that call, he found that she made no such statements to the 911 dispatcher, not mentioning any threats or violence, instead complaining that Morales was "making a scene" and was going to "kidnap" the children, even though the school determined the ex-husband was the rightful custodian of them.
Silver also documented that the school resource officer and other witnesses at the school supported Morales' version and found that Gajda-Morales had no legal right to take the children that day.
"[Silver] spoke to witnesses and everyone at the school contradicted what you said," Norman said to Gajda-Morales. "Did you lie?"
"No sir, I did not ... I did not lie, sir," she said. "I would do no such thing."
But the detective also found that the school's surveillance video contradicted Gajda-Morales' account of what happened. It shows Gajda-Morales in the front office, followed a minute later by Morales, both there to pick up the kids. While there are some words, the video shows no "violent outburst" by Morales, whom Silver noted attempted to avoid his ex-wife.
When asked how much money in child support she owed, Gajda-Morales said, "Nothing as far I'm concerned," denying she is a deadbeat mother.
Morales said his ex-wife owes in the five figures. The state's Child Support Enforcement Program is currently investigating that case, according to records supplied by Morales.
Gajda-Morales, who was hired by the BSO last year, denied that she'd been a Baker Act patient in the past, yet admitted under oath during a 2013 deposition that she had been, claiming she had passed out after taking an Ambien and drinking wine. There is no mention of mental health issues in her BSO background summary report, though the report does reveal that she was rejected by the Hollywood Police Department in 2013 after failing the department's psychological test. When asked in her BSO application to list all illegal drugs or controlled substances she's done, she lists only marijuana, with no mention of Ambien and Xanax, which are both controlled substances.
The BSO said it has begun a "preliminary investigative inquiry" into the actions of Gajda-Morales and her hiring process. Morales said he wonders what might have happened had there been no video, 911 audio or witnesses there to back him up.
"I don't want to be behind bars on the other side trying to say, 'Listen, I never did that,'" he said.
Morales said he's also concerned what she may be capable of on the job as a deputy.
"If she's willing to do that with me, what is she going to do with alleged criminals?" Morales said.
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