Stepfather of rescued Round Rock girl fighting for custody

Josef Scheffler and one of his stepdaughters. (Courtesy: Josef Scheffler)
Josef Scheffler and one of his stepdaughters. (Courtesy/Josef Scheffler)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Six weeks ago, Josef Scheffler lost a woman he calls the love of his life. Tonya Bates was found murdered at her Round Rock home on Dec. 30. Shortly after that, Scheffler also lost two girls he helped raise. Because he’s not their biological father, the state took custody of the girls after Bates’ death.

Scheffler is now fighting to get custody of at least one of the girls, the 8-year-old. Her 14-year-old sister has a biological father in Louisiana who’s been contacted by Child Protective Services.

“It’s been devastating for Mr. Scheffler as I’m sure everybody can imagine,” Scheffler’s attorney Leigh Jorgeson said.

Scheffler now has a team of attorneys who are helping him get custody of the 8-year-old. The attorneys told us Scheffler couldn’t even see his stepdaughter for her birthday. “He wanted to see her give her a hug, give her a gift and tell her he loves her and wish her happy birthday and he wasn’t able to. So it’s been very difficult for Mr. Scheffler.”

According to police, after their mother was murdered, the sisters were kidnapped by Bates’ roommate, Terry Miles. They were found days later in Colorado.

Scheffler’s attorneys told KXAN just last week they found Bates’ will, which says she wants Scheffler to take care of the younger sister if something happened to her.

The will says, “I ask the courts to allow Josef Gabriel Scheffler legal guardianship of [the 8-year-old] as he has helped me to raise and care for her since she was two months of age.”

Bates continued by saying the daughter’s biological father “refused to recognize her as his daughter on her birth certificate. He has proven himself unreliable. Josef Gabriel Scheffler has immense love and attachment towards [name withheld], and she calls him daddy.”

The attorneys say they’ll make their case in front of a judge next month. Scheffler is also asking for help from the public.

The 14-year-old sister’s biological father told KXAN he would like his daughter to be with him, but at this point, he’s waiting to see what CPS says. He said he understands Scheffler has been a great father figure for both the 8- and 14-year-olds when he couldn’t be there.

Attorney Colin Gaffney said CPS is involved in this situation because, after their mother’s death, the girls didn’t have any biological parents living in Texas. We contacted CPS to ask why the girls remain in foster care, they told us they had no comment.

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