An 11-year-old Lakeville boy abandoned by his dad is now said to be "flourishing" while living with an aunt, and his long-lost mother and a neighbor family have been granted visitation rights.
The dad, Steven A. Cross, who faces a criminal charge of child neglect, was at a hearing Wednesday in Dakota County Juvenile Court to seek regular visits with his son. The hearing brought out a bevy of supporters for Sebastian Cross, who had been put in a heart-wrenching bind after his father left for California on the night of July 18, leaving a note telling his son to stay with a neighbor family.
Judge Richard Spicer, who met with Sebastian before the hearing, called him "a delightful young man." Sebastian, wearing his backpack, headed to school as the hearing began.
Often, Spicer said, people don't show for such hearings.
"In this particular case, it's almost refreshing to see that he's not only a nice kid, but everyone wants to be with him," the judge said.
During the hearing in Hastings, Spicer slapped down an assertion by an attorney for Cross, 60, who suggested that the father did not actually abandon the boy.
Attorney Bill Butler questioned whether the boy was in need of protective services when an emergency hearing was held Aug. 17, while Cross was in California. Butler said for 41 days, Sebastian stayed with friends who had a swimming pool, tennis courts and more.
"There is a very serious question as to whether Sebastian was in need of public services on August 17," Butler said.
"If this kid wasn't abandoned," Spicer said, "I've never seen abandonment in my life."
Cross said little during the hearing, but he did ask Spicer if he could have visits with his son. The judge said that would be decided in another hearing after Cross is released from jail. Cross is in the Dakota County jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.
Spicer ordered that biweekly visits continue between Sebastian and his mother, Katik Porter of Minneapolis, who has come back into his life after many years.
Porter said through her attorney that she's building a relationship with her son. Cross had custody of the boy since he was a tot, after the mom's visitation rights were terminated.
On July 18, the boy awoke alone in the Lakeville home where he and his father had been living. His father left behind a note for Sebastian, telling him to take his PlayStation to the home of his best friend, Charlie Pahl.
It also revealed that Sebastian's mother was alive, though the father had long claimed she was dead.
"If this paper is wet it's because I am crying so bad," began the letter addressed to Sebastian. "You know your dad loves you more than anything. This economy got [illegible] there are no jobs for architects so I have to go because the sherriff [sic] will take the house July 27th. There will be no more me. ... Some good news is your mother is still alive. Though I do not think it is for the best. Give these letters to [the neighbor]. Do not open them. I hope they get to give you a chance. There are many great years ahead for you. Not so for me."
A letter addressed to those neighbors, Joanne and John Pahl, asked them to care for Sebastian. He stayed with the Pahls for more than a month.
Since then, Sebastian has stayed with his maternal aunt, a licensed foster care provider in Minneapolis, who also cares for Sebastian's 16-year-old brother.
There's been tension over visits. So Wednesday, the Pahls went to court to ask Spicer to formally approve visits. He granted one weekend afternoon a month, saying it was in the boy's best interest.
Sebastian's aunt, Kimmie Porter of Minneapolis, said that he has three more brothers he's getting to know, along with the rest of his mother's side.
She said Sebastian is busy with school, sports and therapy. She said he's a happy kid and that he's "flourishing."
Joy Powell • 952-882-9017