April 16, 1990
Baby Jessica's Parents Declare Their Marriage Past Rescue
Two and a half years ago, the entire country watched and
worried and waited while hundreds in a west Texas town worked to rescue blond
toddler Jessica McClure from the well into which she had fallen. Fifty-eight
hours later, when the child was lifted to safety, the country rejoiced along
with her 18-year-old parents, Chip, a house-painter, and Cissy, a day-care
worker. But while Jessica, now 4, is healthy and happy, the same cannot be said
for her parents' marriage. Citing irreconcilable differences, the McClures have
just filed for divorce, and there are few people in Midland, Texas, who seem
shocked by the news. If anything, they're surprised the marriage lasted this
Following the rescue, the McClures were caught up in an avalanche
of publicity that might have swept away many a more experienced couple.
Donations poured into Baby Jessica's trust fund, now reportedly valued at
$700,000, but some contributions came addressed simply to the family, and those
ended up in Chip and Cissy's personal account. The two plunked down cash for two
new cars and a house in the suburbs. Meanwhile, Chip started his own tractor
rental business, a lifelong dream. Cissy fulfilled herself by studying
cosmetology part-time at the Aladdin Beauty College.
The Midland rumor
mill had to hire an extra shift to deal with gossip about the marriage going
bad. While some of that may have been sour grapes, the divorce papers provide
plenty of real grist. The McClures each ask the court to prevent the other from
communicating in a vulgar and obscene manner, placing anonymous and offensive
phone calls, and from molesting or kidnapping Jessica.
"I guess they
just didn't have a love that was going to last forever," says Chip's older
sister, Ceidi Proctor, 40. "They just never had a private life." Jessica, whose
custody will be shared by her parents, seems to be handling this new crisis
well. "She's doing just fine," says Ceidi. "Kids usually handle these things
better than the adults."
Meanwhile, Midland is once again a magnet for
the media. Some reporters, jokes one local attorney, "are trying to find out
whether Chip told Cissy to put Jessica down the well or whether Cissy told Chip
to put Jessica down the well. Think how many copies that would sell!"