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Appeals judge rules on guardianship of fallen officer’s children

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- An appeals court judge ruled a Shelby County judge erred when appointing a guardian for the four children of a Memphis police officer who was killed in the line of duty.

Martoiya  Lang was shot and killed while taking part in the execution of a search warrant on December 14, 2012.

The maternal grandmother of the children, Vivian Woods Taylor, and the biological father of three of the children, Darius Lang, sought guardianship.

At the time, Judge Benham said he did not feel either Lang or Woods Taylor were suited for the role.

Lang owed $11,000 in back child support and Benham said Wood Taylor was, “was extremely defensive and hostile, as hostile as any witness I’ve seen in my 48 years.”

In his decision, Benham said of the two, “They will look into their personal interest and not the best interest of the children and that’s the bottom line.”

Guardianship, was awarded to the children's maternal grandfather, Marvin Woods, even though he had not requested it.

In this newest decision, appeals court Judge Andy Bennett vacated the grandfathers appointment as guardian.

Judge Bennett found the court did err in not appointing Darius Lang as guardian of his biological children, because the court did not prove he posed a substantial risk of harm to his children.

Bennett found the court did not err in not appointing Lang as guardian of the fourth child; however, "we are not convinced that the trial court thoroughly applied the best interest factors when appointing Grandfather as her guardian."

Judge Bennett said the court must now revisit the process to determine proper guardianship.

Legal fees have been eating away at funds for the children.

Death benefits totaled about $500,000 for the officer, and the Memphis Police Association raised another $300,000.

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