If one of King Lear's daughters ever made it to Phoenix, she'd probably be an attorney for the state.
It was Lear who said, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child."
Lear's problems were over his kingdom. But closer to home, a 53-year-old grandmother is in a similar battle with her daughter over, of all things, a 60-inch television set. The daughter just happens to be an attorney in the child-protection division of the Attorney General's Office.
The mother, Anna Amavisca, says she lent the TV to her daughter a year and a half ago when Amavisca was changing homes after a divorce. When her daughter refused to give it back, Amavisca sued.
But the daughter, Patricia Trebesch, says it was her father who lent the TV to her, and countersued her mom.
The fighting has forced other members of the family to take sides in a dispute in which charges and countercharges go way beyond the legal issues. No one can even say for sure just whose TV it is, because a vaguely worded divorce settlement doesn't spell it out. A judge in the Peoria Justice Court will decide who gets the big-screen set later this month.
To hear the embattled members of the family talk about it, the five-foot by five-foot "monster" TV, as Anna Amavisca calls it, has become the central focus of their lives.
It all started when Amavisca and her husband, Robert Amavisca, bought the 60-inch Mitsubishi projection screen model for $4,100 in 1987 and set it up in their large home in Glendale.
But four years later, the couple was divorced.
While divorce settlements in Arizona are usually pretty clear-cut, the Amaviscas' spelled out only that the two could each keep whatever property was in their possession at the time. They were living apart.
Problem is, by the time the paperwork went through, Trebesch had the TV.
And therein lies the dispute.
Amavisca, a displaced homemaker whose children had all moved out, had decided she would go back to school. She had moved from the family's former home to a small apartment in Tucson and enrolled at the University of Arizona to study art.
As she remembers it, "I called my daughter and asked her if she knew where I could store the TV. She came over and said she would keep it for me." Joseph Amavisca, the youngest son in the family, agrees with that version: "My sister made an agreement that she would store it until my mom got reestablished," he says.
But Trebesch, naturally, puts a different spin on the so-called agreement, telling New Times that she agreed to store the TV for her father. Dad Robert Amavisca agrees. "She was going to hold it for me," he says. "I didn't have a place to go to." He had sold the house the family had lived in.
But by December, Anna Amavisca says she realized she was running out of money. And she figured she could sell the TV to pay for her next year in college. So she asked her daughter for it.
But her daughter wouldn't give the TV back. Amavisca says she tried several times to arrange to have the TV picked up from her daughter's house, with no success. Her daughter and son-in-law became more distant, she says, and finally cut off communication altogether.
But Trebesch believes her mother was trying to drag her into the divorce as part of a "never-ending effort" to get more property from Robert Amavisca. Besides, Trebesch says her father had now given her the TV because she had gone into debt to pay for her Wrigley Mansion wedding to the head of the public defender's office, Dean Trebesch.
The wedding loan was apparently still on her mind, because in March of last year, Patricia Trebesch left a scathing message on Anna Amavisca's answering machine.
"Anna," said Trebesch, not acknowledging that she was talking to her mother, "I'm just calling to let you know that you can have the big-screen TV back when you pay me the $2,500 loan that I secured in order to get married which you agreed to pay half of. In the meantime, the TV belongs to me."
In the message, Trebesch also demanded $100 a month for keeping the 60-inch-screen TV at her home. And then Trebesch hit her mother with another whammy. "I spoke to my father and my father has indicated that . . . if you attempt to get the TV back, he will have the divorce-decree provisions set aside which provide that you are to get half of his pension, and he will fight you in court. . . . I've agreed to find him an attorney in order to do that."
(Robert Amavisca's attempt to change the divorce settlement was denied in January. He acknowledges his daughter suggested an attorney for him.)
Trebesch ended the message with harsh words for her mother, threatening to get a restraining order "to keep you from coming near my house. If you enter my house, I will have you arrested for burglary and trespassing."
So in June, Amavisca sued to get the TV back. "She left my mom no alternative," son Joseph says of his sister.
But Trebesch, a promising young attorney who worked for the public defender before going to the Attorney General's Office, wasn't about to give in to her mother. Armed with her state-law books, Trebesch countersued her mother.
She alleged that her mother filed the suit in "bad faith," because Trebesch was nine months' pregnant at the time of the suit. Because of that, Trebesch asked for $1,500 for "emotional distress" damages. Plus, she wanted her mom to repay the wedding loan.
Trebesch later asked the court to admonish her mother for calling the media, alleging Amavisca was trying to harm her and her husband's reputations. "She's attempting to ruin my legal career," she tells New Times.
The early hearings in the case weren't pretty. But the judge refused to throw the case out.
Not surprisingly, there hasn't been an out-of-court settlement in this one yet. The actual trial is set to go to court later this month. The list of witnesses expected to testify in the trial includes the entire family.
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What will they say?
Two brothers will take Anna Amavisca's side, while her ex-husband Robert will side with daughter Trebesch. The eldest son is not taking either side in regard to whose TV it is.
"She shouldn't have put my kids and my daughter through a mess like this," says Robert Amavisca of his ex-wife.
But as one son says, Trebesch "wanted the TV, but she's taking it too far." Says Joseph, "It's my mother's property. That's what upsets me the most. Your mother gives you so much in life, why would you treat her that way?"
Where, you might ask, is the TV now? Robert Amavisca says he has it. "It's always been my TV," he says.