Custody battle ensues over son after death of surrogate in celebrated case

In this 2003 file photo, Brooke Cochran (then her last name was Verity) was flanked by gay couple Michael Meehan, left, and Thomas Dysarz in a Lexington hair salon where they met. She gave birth to their quadruplets in 2002 and was pregnant with Dysarz’s child when the photo was taken.
In this 2003 file photo, Brooke Cochran (then her last name was Verity) was flanked by gay couple Michael Meehan, left, and Thomas Dysarz in a Lexington hair salon where they met. She gave birth to their quadruplets in 2002 and was pregnant with Dysarz’s child when the photo was taken. AP

The teenage son of a Central Kentucky woman who made international headlines 15 years ago when she had quadruplets for a gay couple is at the center of a contentious custody battle after his mother’s death.

Brooke Cochran died Nov. 25 at age 37 after abusing illegal and prescription drugs for an extended period.

Cochran gave birth to eight children — the quadruplets live in California with their biological father, Michael Meehan. The subject of the custody battle is a son, whose name has been withheld because he is a juvenile, born shortly after Cochran had the quadruplets.

The boy’s father is Thomas Dysarz, who was dating Meehan when the quadruplets were born in July 2002.

Dysarz wants to win custody from Scott Cochran, Brooke’s husband, in a legal duel that has soiled both sides.

In December 2007, Dyzarz dropped the then 3-year-old boy off at the Cochrans’ home, Scott Cochran claims. Dysarz moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, seeking a warmer climate to help with an illness.

Only three years earlier, Dysarz had been denied visitation with the quadruplets after he and Meehan broke up. The judge ruled Dysarz had no legal standing.

Quadruplets, born through a surrogate mother for Thomas Dysarz, left, and Michael Meehan, held their quadruplets at a reception after they were baptized in Lexington. David Stephenson Herald-Leader

In a court document, Cochran alleges that Dysarz “was struggling with substance abuse issues” when he dropped out of the child’s life. Dysarz and his attorney, Joshua McWilliams, disputed that allegation. McWilliams said “that was litigated previously” and was rejected by the court.

“I do not have a drug problem nor ever have,” Dysarz told the Herald-Leader.

Dysarz said Brooke Cochran initiated custody proceedings while Dysarz was seriously ill and that he never received notice of the proceedings. “The court awarded her sole custody and left me with reasonable visitation. I attempted to exercise it through the years but was blocked,” he said, claiming that his calls were refused and Cochran changed her phone number.

Surrogate mom who gave birth to quadruplets for gay couple ‘started to drift away’ before death

Since about 2010, when Dysarz was approved for disability payments, his son has received $1,100 a month from Dysarz in child support.

“This entire time, Brooke has been receiving child support for (her son), and in no way did I leave my son,” Dysarz said. “ He was taken from me. I have not lost the hope of having my son back with me. I have lived in Corpus Christi, but am prepared to relocate to Kentucky in order to get my son back.”

Dysarz said his custody request is justified by Scott Cochran’s past legal problems.

In 2014, Cochran was convicted for voyeurism. Court records say Cochran admitted to police that he tried to photograph underneath a woman’s dress with his cellphone at the Kroger store in Versailles.

“He stated he attempted to photograph her genitalia for his own personal use,” a police report said.

Cochran’s attorney, Greg Kujawski, said Cochran “did not say he was trying to take a photograph of her genitalia for his own use. That was the language the police used.”

In July 2016, according to a police document, Cochran sat in a parked car in Woodford County and fondled his genitals after seeing a 16-year-old girl and a 21-year-old woman. The women took his license plate number and called police, who traced Cochran to his home.

According to the police report, Cochran told police that when he feels the need to expose himself and masturbate, he cannot control his actions. In his interview with the Herald-Leader, Cochran disputed a portion of the report and said he could control his actions.

Cochran was convicted in each case and served 30 days in jail each time. He served an additional 60 days of home incarceration in 2016.

Cochran said in an interview that the issues that led to his criminal problems have never “impinged on my ability to be a parent.”

“I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve abided by everything the courts have asked me to do,” Cochran said.

In 2014, he told police that he had been charged once before with criminal trespass with the intent for voyeurism, but police could not find records of such an incident, according to a court document. In his interview with the Herald-Leader, Cochran said that arrest occurred 18 years ago in Ohio.

In a 2016 letter in the court record, a psychologist said Cochran was being treated for a sexual addiction.

Cochran said he has provided for Brooke’s sons needs, including shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care, for years. He said that has continued after Brooke’s death. “It would be physically and mentally ‘destroying’ to pull (Brooke’s son)” from Cochran, his siblings, his school, his friends and his community, a court document filed by Cochran said.

Many times, Cochran said in an interview, Brooke would tell him, “If anything ever happened to me, please make sure that you take care of (my son) and you do everything in your power to have custody of him and to keep this man (Dysarz) out of his life.”

He said that after Brooke’s death, he didn’t return Dysarz’s calls because of what Brooke said of her history with Dysarz.

“He is extremely precious to me. ... I love (Brooke’s son). I’ve always loved him,” said Cochran. “ I’ve always been there for the last 10 years taking care of him, sat up nights with him when he was sick, took him to the hospital, done his math homework with him, gone to his choir events at school, played with him in the backyard. I’ve seen him grow up into a very smart, very intelligent young kid.”

On April 20, Woodford Family Court Judge Lisa Morgan granted Cochran temporary custody and said Brooke’s son should begin regular counseling. The court has appointed an investigator to make recommendations.

A final custody hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears