The Nebraska man who abandoned his nine children last year under the state's Safe Haven law and whose girlfriend is now expecting twins is "clearly troubled" and brings a "black eye" to the state, local lawmakers told FOXNews.com.
Gary Staton, 37, became a single father in February 2007 when his wife, RebelJane, died shortly after giving birth to their ninth child. Unable to handle the burden alone, Staton made national news more than a year later when he dropped off his children — ages 1 to 17 — at a hospital in Omaha.
According to the law at the time, parents could hand children up to age 18 over to state custody without prosecution. Legislators later amended the law to limit its reach to infants up to 30 days old.
Joanne Manzer — the wife of RebelJane's father, Jack Manzer — told FOXNews.com exclusively last month that Staton informed his children in late June that he's expecting to become a father again with his new girlfriend, a woman named Gail. Staton "even showed them the ultrasound picture," Manzer said.
News of the pregnancy spread quickly throughout Nebraska, drawing criticism from the very lawmakers who amended the Safe Haven law to exclude babies older than 30 days.
"I'm troubled on different fronts," State Sen. Tony Fulton told FOXNews.com. "It really makes me angry. It's complete disregard on his part of his own children. To hear something like that really angers me."
Fulton, a father of five, said there's no legislation or policy that can be enacted to address Staton's unique situation. Once the twins are born, the state cannot remove them from his custody unless there's evidence that the children are in danger, according to Brenda Beadle, chief deputy attorney of Douglas County.
"There is no legislation or policy that can be passed to cure an irresponsible person," Fulton said. "This guy is irresponsible and his irresponsibility will affect a lot of other lives. This is one of the things government cannot fix."
Attempts to reach Staton were unsuccessful. A phone number listed in his name had been disconnected, and Manzer said he has been staying with friends in the area. Manzer said Staton's children aren’t angry that he's expecting more children.
"He goes up there for visits — they still have a connection," she said last month. "They kind of understood what he did, he was stressed with everything else."
Fulton, meanwhile, was less understanding.
"If this guy comes back to the government with his hand out, he's now on a lot of people's radar screens," he said. "I hope a lot of people scrutinize him before we cut him another check. He's bringing a black eye to Nebraska."
Kathie Osterman, a spokeswoman for Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services, said the Staton family had received more than $995,000 in government aid since the children were young through last fall, including an estimated $600,000 in food stamps and more than $100,000 in Medicaid.
The state paid an average of $725 per month per child to foster parents in similar situations, she said.
State Sen. Mike Friend said Staton's initial usage of the state's Safe Haven law "speaks to an inherent problem in our society" and suggested that the Omaha man undergo counseling.
"I don't know what to do about a guy like that," Friend told FOXNews.com. "I wish I had the ability to be able to figure it out and say, 'Hey, here's the answer.' This is clearly a troubled guy."
Safe Haven laws have been passed in all 50 states since 1999; the District of Columbia is the only place in the U.S. without such a provision. In November, after its first special session in more than five years, Nebraska's legislators revised its law to apply only to babies up to 30 days old. Gov. Dave Heineman said the original law had "serious unintended consequences" after 36 children — ranging from 1 to 17 years old — were abandoned at hospitals, including children brought to Nebraska from as far away as California and Washington. Twenty-two of the 36 children were age 13 or older, and eight were ages 10-12, according to state records.
Fulton said the original law "did not play out" as lawmakers thought it would. Both he and Friend voted for the original bill and its subsequent amendment.
"The idea was if a child is in imminent danger, we ought to have concern for that child, whether he is 3 days or 3 years old," he said. "In hindsight, it was a mistake but it was well-intentioned."