CRIME

Mother of teen murdered by his father says the system failed her

May 17, 2023, 2:37 PM | Updated: 3:51 pm

Om Moses Gandhi, 16, was shot and killed by his father in Salt Lake City on Saturday, police say. H...

Om Moses Gandhi, 16, was shot and killed by his father in Salt Lake City on Saturday, police say. His mother and family are now raising money in his honor to support the Keeping Children Safe From Family Violence Act (GoFundMe)

(GoFundMe)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman whose teenage son was murdered by her ex-husband on the day before Mother’s Day says she tried for 15 years to protect her son but was failed by “the system.”

Now, Leah Moses and her friends are speaking out about the tragic death of Moses’ son, 16-year-old Om Moses Gandhi, to raise attention to the issue of domestic violence and child protection.

On Saturday, the bodies of Parth Gandhi, 49, and his son were found inside his neuropsychology clinic at 2936 S. Highland Drive. Police say Gandhi shot and killed his son and then killed himself.

Gandhi was a neuropsychologist and psychedelic therapist and earned a doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology and neuropsychology from BYU with a focus on neuro-imaging and brain injury. He was active in the local yoga community and friends saw him as a kind, caring person.

But others who have known Gandhi and Moses for years say there was another side to him.

On Tuesday, a GoFundMe campaign* was started in honor of Om. According to friends and family, the money raised will go into a memorial fund to help fight domestic violence, and specifically to help children.

“Love you Om! Your light will always shine, your memory always bright. Miss you so much. In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider donating to Om’s memorial fund to contribute to sweeping change to protect children,” Moses posted on her Facebook page.

“All proceeds generated by this fundraiser will go to Leah Moses who will then split the proceeds between Safe Harbor and lobbying for the Keep Children Safe from Family Violence Act,” the GoFundMe page states.

The campaign claims that Moses, who is currently a board member of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, “tried to warn law enforcement, child protective services and the courts that her ex-husband was an abuser — for over 15 years!”

“The Utah system that is meant to protect women and children completely failed. So, as a longtime advocate for domestic abuse survivors and as a survivor herself, Leah wants to make sure her son’s death was not in vain but that this tragic moment results in systemic change,” the campaign site says.

Moses filed for divorce from Gandhi in 2009. But the divorce was not finalized until 2014 because of continued court hearings regarding child custody, according to court records. Even after the divorce was finalized, the child custody battle continued. The most recent hearing in the ongoing legal proceeding was held last month.

Moses filed for protective orders against Gandhi in 2009 and 2011, court records state.

In January 2022, Gandhi was awarded full custody of Om, according to a temporary order issued in 3rd District Court.”Parth shall have legal custody of minor son O.M.G., with final decision-making authority regarding educational and medical issues,” the order states. “Parth shall have sole physical custody of minor son O.M.G.”

On Tuesday, the National Safe Parents Organization issued a lengthy statement regarding Om’s killing. According to the organization, Moses alleged “that Parth was violent and abusive, and she feared for her children’s safety. She had asked a family court commissioner to keep the child safely with her. The father was granted full custody of the boy despite substantiated allegations of domestic abuse against the father, as well as other problematic behavior.”

Gandhi, however, had accused Moses “of ‘parental alienation,’ a commonly invoked and unfortunately effective legal tactic of accused abusers in family court,” according to the organization.

“My son Om’s death was preventable,” Moses said in a prepared statement issued by the organization. “The family court system professionals ignored my pleas for help to keep my son safe. My son’s father persuaded everyone I was the problem, when in fact I was just trying to protect my child. I never want this to happen to another family, to another child. If the courts would listen to and believe survivors, this nightmare could stop.”

The GoFundme campaign is encouraging people to contact their legislators and request that they support the Keeping Children Safe From Family Violence Act, also known as “Kayden’s Law,” which would require hearings during child custody cases to vet allegations of abuse. Kayden’s Law has been passed in a couple of states. It is named after 7-year-old Kayden Mancuso, of Pennsylvania, who was killed by her father in 2018 during court-ordered custody time, which was granted despite Kayden’s mother raising safety concerns over her daughter’s safety.

Moses has been working to get the law passed in Utah, which “ironically if passed, could have protected her son. She hopes that by passing this law, other children will be saved,” the GoFundMe states.

“Leah also requests that those moved by who Om was as a person and by his tragic death donate to Om’s Memorial Fund. This fund will be used to help pass Kayden’s Law and expand the Safe Harbor Crisis Center, the only domestic violence and sexual assault survivor service in Davis County. It is also paramount to Leah and her family that Om’s life is celebrated and that our larger Utah community knows what an incredible young man he was at the tender age of 16.”

Om was kind and thoughtful and cared most about protecting his mother and younger sister, the GoFundMe site says.

“Om loved camping at the beach and kayaking lakes and rivers with the cousins, was a whiz at math, enjoyed basketball games, and had a creative sense of humor and an infectious laugh. His soft eyes and gentle smile warmed anyone who was blessed to know him. Family gatherings were always his happy place, as was playing music. He taught himself to play the piano, played the bass clarinet and drums, and was a gifted saxophone player. Sadly, Om had his saxophone in hand the day he was senselessly murdered,” the campaign states.

“Om had so much living still to do, and it breaks all our hearts that his beautiful life was cut short because the system meant to protect him completely failed.”

On social media, friends and family members shared the GoFundMe page while also paying tribute to him,

“Our hearts ache at the loss of such a bright soul. Om was always the first to ask if you needed help, schlepping stuff for us and our kids from cars inside and then back out at family events, happy, and just all around an amazing soul. He really is a peacemaker in every sense of the word,” posted a woman who says Om was her nephew.

A woman who says Moses is her cousin posted that Moses “has been very vocal and involved for women in abusive situations and such a huge advocate for trying to keep her kids safe. Her kids have endured abuse for years and she has endured it as well, but every time it was addressed, she kept getting dismissed by the courts. Her ex was a neuropsychologist so they never viewed him as wrong since he was a doctor in the community. They never listened to her after repeated contact and court hearings for 15 years.

“(Om) was the purest and sweetest son and so loving and kind. I’m completely devastated for her and her sweet daughter. It just completely breaks me to know he is gone and that it could have all been prevented,” she continued.


Child abuse resources:

  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org. The statewide child abuse and neglect hotline is 1-855-323-DCFS (3237).

Help with Children

Those who feel stressed out with a child, who need a break or who feel like they need counseling or training can reach out to one of the following agencies:

  • The Family Support Center has 15 locations throughout the state and offers a free crisis nursery for parents who have to keep appointments or who are stressed out. They also offer counseling and family mentoring. Call 801-955-9110 or visit familysupportcenter.org/contact.php for more information.
  • Prevent Child Abuse Utah provides home visiting in Weber, Davis, and Box Elder counties. Parent Educators provide support, education, and activities for families with young children. Their statewide education team offers diverse trainings on protective factors, digital safety, bullying, and child sex trafficking. They are available for in-person or virtual trainings and offer free online courses for the community at pcautah.org.
  • The Office of Home Visiting works with local agencies to provide home visits to pregnant women and young families who would like to know more about being parents. Home visitors are trained and can provide information about breastfeeding, developmental milestones, toilet training, nutrition, mental health, home safety, child development, and much more. Find out more at homevisiting.utah.gov.
  • The Safe Haven law allows birth parents in Utah to safely and anonymously give up custody of their newborn child at any hospital in the state, with no legal consequences and no questions asked. The child’s mother can drop off the child, or the mother can ask someone else to do it for her. The newborns should be dropped off at hospitals that are open 24 hours a day. Newborns given up in this manner will be cared for by the hospital staff, and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services will find a home for the child. For more information, visit utahsafehaven.org or call the 24-hour hotline at 866-458-0058.

Domestic violence resources:

If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available.

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Mother of teen murdered by his father says the system failed her