Renata took her own father to court and won custody of her invalid mother in a case the judge said was enough to give him a new faith in humanity, and also enough to make him puke.
Renata Peters dropped out of school and started her own advertising agency when her mother became helpless with Alzheimer’s disease and her father hit the bottle.
“He was too drunk to function. He didn’t make any sense,” says young Renata. “And Mom can’t do anything for herself. She’s as much trouble as a little baby — more. I had to do something.”
Renata’s teachers say she was a brilliant child with a bright future. There’s no telling what she would have become, they say, if she had had the opportunity to finish school.
“She was as bright as they come,” says Kenneth Wilhelms, Renata’s chemistry teacher. “She certainly would have gotten a full academic scholarship to college, and there’s no doubt that she would have gone on to graduate school. Probably medical school. It’s a shame to see her give all that up. But she’s got to work now. She needs to have that money coming in. ”
In an era of questionable responsibility among America’s teen population, Renata stands out. The clever tenth grader was so skilled at art, writing, and songwriting that she quit school and started an advertising agency.
Her business produces newspaper and radio ads, complete with jingles — and she has more customers than she can handle.
“We’re very pleased with the work she’s done for us,” says Kirt Blinkdon, marketing director of MPKRC Corporation, one of Renata’s biggest clients. “She’s getting us the results we want.”
Friends and neighbors say the family functioned just fine until Renata’s mother, Carlata, developed Alzheimer’s disease two years ago. Her rapid decline in health caused Renata’s father to take up drinking as a way of coping with the stress. He soon lost his job as a computer programmer and began to physically abuse his wife and daughter.
Renata then set out on her own. Without even being old enough to drive, she got her own business off the ground and secured her own apartment. She then hired Art Milhoan as her lawyer and began proceedings to win custody of her mother.
“It’s the damndest thing I’ve ever seen,” says Judge Franko Linquist. “But it was an easy decision. She’s just a child, and she’s more mature than nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand people who walk into this courtroom.
“Sure, the kid deserves to have custody of her mother. Her father had no case. That kind of justice can be arranged. But sometimes real justice is impossible — and this is one of those times.
“This is an exceptional girl. A one in a million girl. And look at the tragedy in her life. Where’s the justice in that? This is a case in which legal justice can be granted, but human justice can’t be.”