Parent alienation leads to son’s death; now, dad speaks out


Photo Courtesy Rodney McCall

Government teacher Rodney McCall sits with his son. This picture hangs on the bulletin board in McCall’s classroom. “But mental health illness is very real,” McCall said. “And, I literally watched an extremely brilliant person become so consumed with hate that was caused by her mental illness, and addiction to prescription drugs.”

The day was supposed to end in victory for Rodney McCall, but instead, Oct. 21, 2011, ended in anguish. The “quiet, late-morning air” gave into the splitting sound of three gunshots. Karen Hayslett-McCall had shot 8-year-old Eryk twice, then turned the gun on herself, killing them both.

On Oct. 21, 2011, McCall received the news that he had been hoping to get: He was getting custody of his son, Eryk Hayslett-McCall. After what he said was a “long, difficult, and vicious divorce and custody battle,” McCall was given full guardianship of his son, while his ex-wife, Hayslett-McCall’s, parental rights were terminated.

Parent alienation led to the problem. Now, McCall often speaks about this topic with those who request his guidance. He’s attended meetings, conventions, and more to talk about himself and tell his story. Now, his story is being shared with students.

In McCall’s book, For the Love of Eryk: Surviving Divorce, Parental Alienation, and Life After, McCall offers advice to others who may not even realize they are victims of parent alienation.

“No one had to tell me what my soul already understood,” McCall said. “Eyrk was gone.”

After finally getting what he had been fighting for for so long, his son was dead, as a result of a divorce and parent alienation from Karen Hayslett-McCall.

“I didn’t get married with the idea that I would get divorced. That was not in the equation,” McCall said. “In Texas, it takes two people to get married, but only one to get divorced. She (Hayslett-McCall) wanted the divorce. She had moved on.”

Though the marriage started off with that picture-perfect “red front door,” McCall said he started to notice a change in his family after his child Eryk was born.

“We were very excited to have a child,” McCall said. “It was probably after the first year that she (Hayslett-McCall) started to withdraw a little more. She had horrible migraines.”

With their nights often ending in the emergency room, the differences in McCall’s wife had started to become visible to him. 

“She (Hayslett-McCall) was taking all kinds of medication. We would go to the emergency room at 1 in the morning because the migraines were horrible,” McCall said. “Her addiction to medication fed into her mental health issues that as she got older began to manifest themselves.”

Mr. McCall is a teacher who is passionate about teaching students about our laws and government so that they can use their knowledge and strengths to be positive citizens. It is important to him that his students learn how to think for themselves and understand the why behind their beliefs and ideas.

— Melissa Weiss

Though Hayslett-McCall’s mental health had seemingly “declined,” McCall said, he said he also believed that the marriage had “dissolved,” as well.

“I felt that if I had more money, that life would be better,” McCall said. “Well, I wonder if I had spent more time investing in relationships instead of making memories, maybe the marriage wouldn’t have dissolved.”

Though it’s been nearly eight years since Hayslett-McCall’s death, little “reminders” of her will often come up to McCall.

“There are times where I get mad at her (Hayslett-McCall),” McCall said. “Something that we thoroughly enjoyed together, something will come up and remind me of that, and I want to reach out to her and call her and say, ‘Hey! You remember?’ But I can’t do that.”

Though to McCall, mental health is “very real” and can ruin more than relationships, but a person’s personality, as well.

“I get upset, because of the person that she could’ve been.” McCall said. “But mental health illness is very real. And, I literally watched an extremely brilliant person become so consumed with hate that was caused by her mental illness, and addiction to prescription drugs.”

After the death of his son and ex-wife, there was still a place for comfort. McCall said he had the “love and support” of a close group of friends that were apart of the “Divorce Recovery Group” in the Dallas area.

“They (the Divorce Recovery Group) just rallied around and made sure that I wasn’t alone,” McCall said. “We did something all the time. A lot of it focused on laughter. They have been a cane for me to lean on, even to this day.”

Though from that cold October morning, McCall remains adamant that his son’s death has to stand for more.

Mr. McCall is an important part of the Social Studies Department. His care for his students and leadership amongst his peers are second to none.

— Jonathan Lewis

“I felt from the very beginning that Eryk’s death has to stand for something,” McCall said. “Because otherwise, it was for nothing. And I can’t believe that God Almighty would have allowed that to happen for no reason.”

Though the “horrors” he had endured, McCall has a message for those struggling, specifically with parent alienation and relationships.

“Just because the world beats you down, doesn’t mean you have to stay down and quit. You can’t control what happens to you. You can only control how you respond to it,” McCall said. “That’s why I do what I do. I travel and visit and talk to anyone who will stand still for long enough, about the horrors of this (parental alienation). Because what happened to me, is happening again and again and again to other parents and children. It (parent alienation) happens all the time. And I have to do my part, to try and put a stop to it.”


Statistics, warning signs reveal harsh reality of parental alienation syndrome