A Hamilton County judge dissolved a restraining order that prevented the husband of a missing woman from moving their two children out of state or more than 100 miles away from their Signal Mountain home.
Gail Palmgren, 44, was last seen April 30. Her siblings, Diane Nichols, of Tonawanda, N.Y., and Kevin Nowacki, of Lake Worth, Fla., filed court documents Friday asking that Palmgren’s husband, Matthew Palmgren, be required to honor conditions set forth in a restraining order.
On Wednesday afternoon, Chancellor Frank Brown dissolved the order and transferred the case to Chancellor Jeff Atherton’s courtroom. Matthew Palmgren’s attorneys, Bryan Hoss and Lee Davis, had asked the judge to review the order Wednesday rather than on a previously set date of July 11.
“Obviously, this is an emotional case,” Brown said in court. “It’s a case that has the public’s eye.”
Brown said he hoped attorneys from both sides would be able to work together to reach an agreement.
“Hopefully, some good will come out of it,” he said.
Nichols and Nowacki were unable to attend the hearing.
“This was a last-minute hearing. So it didn’t permit them time to arrive in Chattanooga,” said Theresa Critchfield, an attorney representing the siblings.
“We understand the court’s ruling. ... Chancellor Brown feels like the two cases are similar — the legal separation case and the case we have filed — are similar enough in nature that they should both be heard by the same chancellor, and we understand that,” Critchfield said.
Matthew Palmgren was also not present in court.
The order asked that Palmgren:
* Not make any financial changes to the couple’s assets, including property and insurance policies
* Make no disparaging remarks about Gail Palmgren in front of the couple’s children, ages 12 and 9
* Not destroy or hide any possible evidence about his wife’s disappearance
* Not relocate the children
* Restore power to a home the couple owns on an Alabama lake
* Appoint a guardian ad litem, a representative who would represent the children in legal matters since they are minors.
According to the restraining order, the relatives are concerned Palmgren might drive under the influence with the children in the car and that he might sell the couple’s property. He lost his job at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
The restraining order also asked that the children receive counseling. Davis said in court the children have been in counseling and that the order was poorly researched.
Within a week of his wife’s disappearance, Matthew Palmgren filed for legal separation, exclusive use of the couple’s home and custody of the children. He withdrew the motions from Chancery Court on June 1.
Davis said losing his job has put Palmgren under financial stress and he is actively looking for a new job.
“He’s doing the best he can to take care of these children he has been left with,” Davis said.
Gail Palmgren gave jewelry belonging to her and Palmgren’s mother to a friend for safekeeping. The jewelry has been returned to Matt Palmgren, his attorneys said in court.
They also noted that the week before she went missing, Gail Palmgren gave Diane Nichols a cashier’s check for $17,000. They said Gail Palmgren was mentally unstable during this time and thought people were following her.
Davis said Gail Palmgren asked a couple to look after her children and then later accused the same couple of trying to take her children away.
In an interview Tuesday with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Nichols said she’s concerned about the children and her sister’s interests.
“Until the situation is resolved, I think they will continue to be concerned,” Critchfield said.
In another development, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office detectives requested this week that Arlene Durham, a close friend of Gail Palmgren’s, share surveillance footage with them. She has not responded to their requests, said Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Janice Atkinson.
It’s unclear if Durham will face charges for holding evidence, Atkinson said.
“That will be a decision they will make at some point,” she said.
Durham could not be reached for comment Wednesday.