Judge orders woman to return four children to Ohio to seeing dying father

CLEVELAND - Doug Whipple, the attorney for Mark McAvinue, confirms to NewsChannel5 that McAvinue has passed away, one day before he was scheduled to see his children.

Whipple offered the following statement to NewsChannel5:

"There are perhaps a dozen people who had the authority to reunite Mark McAvinue's children with their father while he was still alive. How many of these persons will shrug his or her shoulders and say it was someone else's responsibility or fault? Perhaps because of Mark's tragedy they will now soften their hearts and open their minds.

The mother is a troubled person.  She is unable to care for these children without help.  In his final days Mark tried hard to provide such help, as their devoted father. But the system failed him.

Now that Mark is gone it would be comforting to know that the children will be given the love, care and support that they need and deserve. I hope that these decisions will be made based on the best interests of the children, regardless of who may have been right or wrong in the custody and visitation dispute."

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The terminally ill Fairview Park man has new hope in his fight to see his four children.

During a Thursday morning court hearing, Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Judge Leslie said Mark McAvinue's estranged wife, Rebecca, must return his four children to Ohio by Saturday.

McAvinue, 33, said his doctors told him he has one month to live. He has leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

McAvinue said his wife disappeared with Leia, 7; David, 6; Fiona, 4 and Chloe, 3, on Feb. 1. It is the third time his wife has disappeared with the children since he was diagnosed in August, he said.

"It's just very nice to hear that I will finally be able to see them again," he said.

His attorney, Doug Whipple, contacted NewsChannel5 investigators about McAvinue's struggle to find his children.

Whipple said law enforcement agencies have refused to search for the children, even though Whipple obtained two court orders barring Rebecca McAvinue from leaving the state with her children. Fairview Park Police Chief Patrick Nealon said his department wanted to help McAvinue, but said the city's prosecutor determined it was a civil matter that must be handled in court.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation cannot get involved in a case unless a local agency asks for assistance, according to a spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children does assist parents who are searching for their kids by helping them navigate the legal system, but a representative said they will only post pictures when law enforcement agencies are involved in the situation

McAvinue's children will live with his father when they return to Ohio. They will visit their father for four hour each day at the Westlake hospice where he is currently staying, according to the court order.

McAvinue said he is looking forward to spending time with them.

"I want to tell them how much I care about them, how much I've always cared about them, how much I've worked hard for them and always tried to make their lives the best lives they could have," he said.

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