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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 5

Kellie Pickler's estranged mom: Leaving was the hardest decision

By Christopher Rocchio, 11/09/2007 

Kellie Pickler can stop wondering -- Cynthia Malone, the mother who abandoned her when she fled an relationship with Kellie's father, is indeed thinking about her.

"Leaving my baby [was the worst thing I felt]... Leaving my baby.  That was the hardest decision I had to make," Malone said during a television interview that aired while her estranged daughter, whom she abandoned when Kellie was a toddler, was performing her single "I Wonder" at the 2007 County Music Association Awards ceremony on Wednesday night.

"The only regret that I have looking back at my life... I have to forgive myself for what I did," Malone told WGHP-TV, a North Carolina Fox affiliate.  "If I had a choice, or if I had the tools that I have today, I would have done something so much different."

The song centers on the American Idol fifth-season finalist's relationship with Malone -- and Kellie was visibly emotional throughout the performance, leaving Nashville's Sommet Center stage in tears and speaking the last line of the song instead of singing it.

The 38-year-old Malone currently resides in Triangle, NC and referred to herself during the interview as Kellie's "mystery mom" and said she decided to talk because "a lot of misproof has been printed" about her.

"I wanted to speak-out for me, and for the victims [of domestic violence]," Malone told WGHP-TV.

As a child, Malone said she was abused by her own father, who would "hit" her with "anything" he could find.  At the age of 16, Malone said she met Clyde Raymond Pickler Jr. and almost immediately found herself pregnant with Kellie.

She said her mother gave her the ultimatum of "have an abortion or leave," so Malone told WGHP-TV she left home and married Clyde.

"It started out with the alcohol and then from there, it went to other drugs," Malone recalled about Clyde to WGHP-TV.  "The further along I got [in my pregnancy], the worse it got... I was being hit, [almost] miscarried several times with Kellie."

During a July interview with Raleigh, NC's The News & Observer, Malone said it was those near miscarriages that helped her realize "God had to have a purpose" for her unborn daughter.

Malone told WGHP-TV that family members and friends knew the abuse was taking place during the pregnancy.  Kellie was born in 1986 -- and while Malone told The News & Observer Clyde would never hit Kellie because she was his "princess" -- he was still abusing her, and she made the decision to flee in Summer 1988.

"When you're in that place, you have to make a decision: [Kellie's] life or yours," Malone The News & Observer. "I'd given her life, but I didn't want to lose mine."

Malone said she and Kellie were then estranged until 1995, when a judge granted her custody of the fourth-grader, according to The News & Observer.  However since her daughter was raised by her grandparents due to Clyde's constant troubles with the law, Kellie still yearned to be with them and her relationship with her mom came unglued once again.

While Clyde was unable to be there for Kellie's Spring 2006 Idol stint because he was completing a three-year prison term in Florida on charges of felony battery and aggravated assault for stabbing his neighbor in 2003, Malone told The News & Observer she recorded every episode and would watch them over and over again.

Malone told WGHP-TV she "refuses" to speak publicly about whether she has a relationship with Kellie, although the former Idol finalist claims a relationship does not exist.

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