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Miranda Wilkerson: Grandma Loses Custody of Florida 3-Year-old To Sex Offender Father

First Posted: 07/18/11 12:55 PM ET Updated: 09/17/11 06:12 AM ET

The bitter custody fight for Florida preschooler Miranda Wilkerson ended last week when a Jacksonville judge shifted guardianship from the 3-year-old's grandmother to her father, a registered sex offender, ABC News affiliate WJXX-TV reported.

Miranda's mother, Trista Crews, was still married to her estranged husband, Donald Coleman, in 2007, when she died in a car wreck, Jacksonville's First Coast News reported.

Coleman was 38 in 1997, when he impregnated a 14-year-old Crews for the first time. He was later convicted for sex with an underage woman. The couple nonetheless married.

Coleman filed for divorce from Crews about a month before her death, stating he believed Miranda was another man's child. The girl was raised by her grandmother, Rita Manning, whose bid to formally adopt the girl sparked the custody battle.

According to court documents obtained by First Coast News, the grandmother was keeping him from seeing Miranda.

"Once you're serving the father, then it triggers ego and pride and fathers don't just disappear. They always show up to fight," adoption attorney Michael Shorstein told ABC News.

Both Coleman and Manning have criminal histories. Manning was charged with child neglect around the time her daughter first became pregnant by Coleman, ABC reports. She was also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 1995, though those charges were later dropped.

Florida State Rep. Janet Adkins weighed in on the case, telling ABC she was "appalled" by the decision, which sent the tot across state lines to Georgia, where Coleman now lives, on Wednesday.

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Filed by Sonja Sharp  |