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Grieving dad jailed for repeatedly criticizing court system in Macomb County

Posted: 6:46 PM, Sep 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-06 11:28:59-04

(WXYZ) — He lost a custody battle, then his son lost his life. He blames the court system. He voiced his strong opinions on social media and the next thing he knew he was locked in jail.

“He was so full of life,” said Deborah Vanderhagen of her grandson. “I am trying not to cry.”

On September 22 it will be the two-year anniversary of the day Deborah Vanderhagen’s grandson Killian lost his life. She believes her son Jonathan Vanderhagen is justified in feeling the court cost her grandson his life. He died in the custody of his mom after her son asked for sole custody.

“His lawyer said something is going to happen to this child. You need to get him away from the mother. There are too many red flags. And the judge said, oh that is in the past,” said Deborah Vanderhagen.

The police report filed after two-year-old Killian died shows he had a previous medical condition and investigators did not believe there was evidence Killian’s mother was responsible. His dad felt otherwise and repeatedly posted criticism of the judge who presided over his case and friend of the court on his Facebook Page.

Judge Rachel Rancilio saw the posts, many of which are publicly targeted at her. She apparently felt uncomfortable and possibly threatened. She did not hear the custody hearing, which was handled by a court referee.

The Macomb County Sheriff’s office responded and found he criticized what Judge Rachel Rancilio pinned on Pinterest as in his opinion inappropriate, posted videos saying he feels she and others responsible for Killian’s death, and blamed the court system for his loss.

The investigative report also says at no time did he threaten harm or violence.

Still he was charged with malicious use of telecommunications services and released on bond. Then he made more posts, such as one that reads, “Dada back to digging and you best believe I’m gonna dig up all the skeletons in this court’s closet.”

A judge ruled he violated his bond conditions. He now is in jail on half a million dollars bond.

His mom says she feels he simply was exercising his right to free speech.

“He just wants justice. He don’t want to kill anybody. He don’t want anybody physically hurt. He wants them to acknowledge what they’ve done and get justice,” said Deborah Vanderhagen.

A jury trial is scheduled for September 13.