Shane Graham, age 11, disappeared in 1999 or 2000. He had autism, Down’s Syndrome, and sickle-cell anemia. His adoptive mother, Judith Leekin, is believed to have murdered him and buried him in the yard of one of her houses, although his body has not been found. Leekin also abused 10 other adopted special needs children. Leekin adopted eleven times between 1988 and 1996 in New York before moving her family to Florida in 1998. Neighbors reported Leekin for child abuse in 1999 and the police attempted to substantiate the reports, visiting her houses multiple times, but were never able to observe the children. The abuse was eventually discovered in 2007 when police found adopted daughter Tracey Wells, age 18, abandoned in the parking lot of a supermarket. The police then conducted a search of Leekin’s house. Most of the children were scarred and missing teeth. None could read or write. The children said that Leakin had threatened to shoot them or cut off their heads if they ever revealed her secrets. Neighbors reported hearing Leekin screaming at the children, “cursing at them, the ‘whacks’ of her hitting them and the cries of the children.” Leekin constructed an elaborate surveillance system which allowed her to keep watch on a closed-circuit monitor. Tracey Wells reported “being forced to hide in secret rooms when someone would come to the house.” Leekin homeschooled the children. Leekin was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Stephen Wells (born in 1987) reported that he was handcuffed, tied up, and forced to sleep on a cold tile floor in a locked hallway, where he soiled himself because he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom. He was denied education, medical care and food, and spent his entire life indoors. Jamel Wells (born in 1988) reported that Leekin used a billy club to beat him and the other children. He was also handcuffed to a crib and pistol-whipped by Leakin’s biological son, Desmond Leekin, who then put the gun in Jamel’s mouth and threatened to shoot him. Tracey Wells (born in 1989) said Leekin once punished her by burning her hand on a stove. She also reported that Desmond Leekin frequently beat the children “including with shoes, belts and sticks.” Another of Leekin’s children was an autistic and developmentally disabled girl adopted at age 7. Though she cannot describe her abuse, her siblings have described “her pulling her decaying teeth from her own mouth, the result of a childhood of no dental care.” Another of Leekin’s children was an autistic and developmentally disabled boy adopted at age 5. He is now blind and missing teeth, and his disabilities also prevent him from expressing what happened to him.
Date: July 4, 2007
Location: New York City and Port St. Lucie, Florida