On Wednesday morning, Syed Rizwan Farook, pictured above, and Tashfeen Malik reportedly left their 6-month-old baby girl with Farook’s mother, saying they had a doctor’s appointment. Farook then stopped by an office party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., where he worked as an environmental specialist. He soon left and returned around 11 a.m. with Malik — both were wearing masks and body armor and carrying assault rifles, handguns, and explosives. The married couple proceeded to gun down 14 people and injure 21 others before being killed hours later in a police shootout.
Details of the massacre — and the question of why? — continue to unfold. This young couple, both in their late 20s, lived in nearby Redlands, in a neat suburban neighborhood where they’d been renting for about six months. Their infant daughter was born in May, according to Malik’s baby registry, which listed only swabs, diapers, baby soap, and a car seat, all fulfilled.
Where will this baby girl go? No family members could be reached for comment, but according to Robert Farzad of Farzad Family Law in Santa Ana, Calif., the answer partly depends on whether the parents have a will that names a guardian in the event of their death. “If there is a proper designation, that person may be appointed as the child’s guardian, subject to court approval,” Farzad tells Yahoo Parenting. “If there is no such designation, then typically someone — usually a grandparent or other relative — will ask the court to be appointed as a guardian ad litem.”
Also, in this situation, looking at the couple’s estate planning or will could give more information about the crime, according to Farzad: “Did they plan ahead?” When did they do the estate planning — was it shortly before the shootings? The timing of things may open more information about this horrible set of events.”
Farzad adds that the high-profile nature of the parents’ alleged crime could potentially change the custody outcome. “I believe people will want to know why [the attack] happened, who knew about it, and how it could have been avoided,” he says. In other words, anyone who comes forward to be appointed as guardian may be asked questions to determine whether he or she knew about the shooters’ intended actions.
No matter where the baby ends up, family therapist Paul Hokemeyer tells Yahoo Parenting it’s “critically important that she be surrounded by people who can … give her safety and security,” as it is for any child who loses parents at a young age. “This is an incredibly traumatizing event that will profoundly impact this little girl’s emotional and physical development,” he says.
Hokemeyer adds that 6-month-olds don’t have the cognitive capacity to understand an event like this, but they can still be affected. “She will be operating purely from an emotional intuitive standpoint,” he explains. “On an unconscious level, she’s going to have to heal the damage caused to her central nervous system from this traumatic event. This will take time but can definitely occur with steady support.”
It’s also key that Malik and Farook’s daughter grows up with the ability to incorporate this dark part of her life story in a positive way — and Hokemeyer insists that’s not impossible. “With the proper clinical interventions and family and community support,” he says, “she can become the person who fights against the world’s evils rather than surrendering to them.”
Top photo: Yahoo News Video