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EDWARDSVILLE • Seven children from Glen Carbon whose parents died in March are now at the center of a struggle over guardianship between their paternal grandparents and their maternal grandmother.

According to court documents, Nancy and Henry Campbell of Glen Carbon, the children’s paternal grandparents, filed a petition for guardianship after the parents, Cristy and Justin Campbell, died March 16. More than a month later, Cristy Campbell’s mother, Lenora Brueggemann of Caseyville, filed a counterpetition for guardianship that alleged Nancy and Henry Campbell were forcing the children, five boys and two girls, ages 5 months to 14 years, to adopt a lifestyle that harms their mental health.

The counterpetition claims that Nancy and Henry Campbell have:

• Forced the children to adopt the couple’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and to seek converts by going door to door.

• Banned contact between the children and Brueggemann because Brueggemann is not a Jehovah’s Witness.

• Planned to have the children discontinue their extracurricular activities, including sports.

The document says Brueggemann was the primary alternate child care provider for the children before their parents’ deaths. Brueggemann was unable to house all seven children after their parents’ deaths, but the petition says she is working on securing an adequate living situation.

“The lives of the children have been disrupted to a severe degree due to the nature of the loss of their parents, and it is not in the best interests of the minor children to discontinue their previous extracurricular activities and force them into a religion which was not the status quo of the biological parents,” Brueggemann’s counterpetition reads.

Some of the details of how events unfolded on March 16 remain unclear.

But early that morning, six of the children of Cristy and Justin Campbell fled their burning house on Dogwood Lane in Glen Carbon. Some ran to a neighbor’s house, and others found help at a nearby Walmart.

Sixteen miles away, about 5:30 a.m. a 911 caller reported an SUV in Silver Lake in Highland. A paramedic reached the scene in time to swim 50 to 75 feet and save a 3-month-old baby, who was floating inside the vehicle with a few inches of air space.

Cristy Campbell’s body was found in the lake later that morning. Justin Campbell’s body was found inside the remains of the house. A coroner ruled that he died of a gunshot wound to the head before the house went up in flames.

Cristy and Justin Campbell divorced in Madison County in 2012, according to court records. She was awarded custody of the children. A neighbor told the Post-Dispatch in March that she believed Justin Campbell was also living at the house on Dogwood Lane.

The couple had a history of domestic issues. Justin Campbell was a manager at a Bob Evans restaurant in Collinsville, and Cristy Campbell worked as a manager with T-J Transport in Highland, and a cocktail waitress at Lumière Place Casino in St. Louis.

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