TYLER (KYTX) - Russel Lindstrom told our news partners at CBS 19 Thursday that his trip through the justice system was unfair -- so much so, that he plans to take his story to the American Civil Liberties Union. He was in a Smith County courtroom for a hearing in the case brought against him and his wife by Child Protective Services.
On Monday Lindstrom pled guilty to charges involving the hot car death of his older daughter, Bella, who was found inside a truck on the family's property last summer.
The plea agreement allowed Lindstrom to go on deferred adjudication with no time spent in prison.
Lindstrom said he was railroaded by CPS, and that he believes the agency's investigators were determined to rip his family apart.Thursday was the first time Judge Carole Clark had ever dealt with Lindstrom directly. He had been in jail during all the previous hearings.
Lindstrom's military service was a hot topic in the courtroom, not out of patriotism, but out of concern it might make him an unfit parent.
"CPS was wanting to use the fact that I'm a combat veteran with PTSD against me to say that I wasn't a good parent," Lindstrom said after the hearing.
After the hearing Lindstrom said he felt like CPS workers were more interested in creating a bad situation than they were in fixing it.
"In the mean time, they came after my family, they brought my wife up on a case with CPS, they took my wife's support network away from her, chased her mom out of our house," he said.
Lindstrom went on to accuse CPS of interfering in his criminal case and influencing the original charge against him.
District Attorney Matt Bingham said that the indictment came from Lindstrom's peers on the grand jury. Not from CPS.
"[CPS is] not a law-enforcement body," Bingham said. "But we do utilize their information because it's relevant. What he pled to was the same degree of severity. He pled to a second degree felony, injury to a child, on an indictment returned by a Smith County grand jury."
"I did everything that a normal parent would do that day," Lindstrom said. "My children had gone down for a nap, I was doing my chores and they got up early and snuck out of the house. Now, should I have been able to catch them? Probably. But no parent is perfect."
After everything, Lindstrom said he will continue to fight in family court.
"My wife wants me home," he said. "My daughter wants me home. And as soon as we are legally able to do so, we will be together."
Lindstrom said he continues to collect evidence to bolster his claims to the ACLU. He was also careful to add that he is not sure any laws were broken by agencies involved in his prosecution.
A CPS spokesperson defended the agency, saying it does not cross the line into law enforcement's responsibilities. She said the goal in this case is to make sure Lindstrom's living daughter is in a safe situation if he returns to the home.
Lindstrom on Thursday was awarded limited supervised visits with his living daughter. He said it didn't matter in the short term because his wife and daughter have moved away and he's not able to travel.