T.T. (a 15-year-old boy), G.T. (a 14-year-old girl), B.T. (a 14-year-old boy), and E.T. (a 13-year-old girl), were tortured, starved, and sexually abused by their adoptive parents, Lora (or Laura) and Aubrey Thomas, and their older brother Garrett, the Thomases’ biological son. The Thomases also had at least two other older biological children, who did not report being abused.
The Thomases became foster parents to six children in 2001. In 2003, two of the children were removed because they had been abused. The four remaining children were homeschooled.
The Thomases withheld food from the children as punishment. The children were fed bar soap and cayenne pepper and were forced to eat their own vomit if they got sick. They were forced to eat horse manure as punishment for failing to clean the horse pen. They were paddled regularly with a paddle called “Mr. Awesome” and then made to lie in an ice bath to reduce the swelling. They were forced to perform sex acts with Aubrey and perform oral sex on each other in exchange for food. The girls in particular were singled out for abuse and were punished for bed-wetting by having their soiled underwear stuffed into their mouths. Garrett Thomas also forced the children to touch his genitals.
The abuse came to light when one of the girls reported it to a counselor in a psychiatric facility where she had been placed. Lora was charged with four counts of felony child abuse and Aubrey was charged with three counts of felony child abuse and one count of enabling child abuse, also a felony. Garrett was charged with child abuse.
Date: October 14, 2011
Location: Sperry, Oklahoma Continue reading
10-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and their 8-year-old brother, were tortured, imprisoned, and starved by their adoptive mother, Iliana Archuleta, and her brother-in-law Rogelio Archuleta (center). The children’s adoptive father, Tim Archuleta (right), knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it. The Archuletas’ two biological children, a 13-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, lived in the home but were not abused. The Archuletas also operated a day-care facility, though none of their charges were abused. The Archuletas had previously been foster parents to two children who were removed in 2007 due to abuse and neglect.
The three children were placed with the Archuletas in 2008 after being removed from their biological parents for abuse and neglect. They attended public school for the 2008-2009 school year, but one of the children kept missing school and child services worked with them through the rest of 2009. The children began attending school again in spring 2010 and continued through the 2010-2011 school year. After they were formally adopted in spring 2011, they did not return to school for the 2011-2012 school year. Iliana told authorities that she was homeschooling them at her day-care facility. One investigator reported that the Archuletas “would say they were taking them to a charter school or were homeschooling them…That’s all they have to say. They don’t have to prove it.”
The children were forced to bite each others’ toes and ears as punishment and then pour bleach into the open wounds. As a result, the girl was missing part of her ear and the boy had an infected toe which had turned into a serious bone infection. There was a lock on the refrigerator and the children had lanugo and other signs of severe malnourishment. They were forced to eat sticks of butter until they felt full, and forced to eat their vomit if they threw up. The children were also made to sleep upright in their parents’ bathtub with the sliding glass door closed and a bucket to relieve themselves. Iliana periodically made them wear diapers and locked them in her office at the day-care facility.
The abuse came to light when Iliana brought the 8-year-old to the hospital after he had a seizure. Doctors noticed the boy’s injuries and called the authorities. Each of the Archuletas was charged with three felony counts of injury to a child.
Date: October 13, 2012
Location: San Antonio, Texas Continue reading
Erin and Jennifer Pickel abused and imprisoned two of their five children, a 15-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, starting in 2008. There were also two younger children and one child over 18 in the home. All the children were homeschooled.
The children, who were both adopted (the boy in 2005 and the girl in 2006) when the family lived in South Carolina, were periodically locked out of the home and forced to stay in the backyard playhouse, which had no electricity or running water. When they were taken into protective custody they were covered with cuts and bruises.
The abuse came to light when an anonymous tip brought the police to the door. The Pickels were each charged with five counts of felony child abuse and five counts of felony child neglect.
Date: May 29, 2013
Location: Goldsboro, North Carolina Continue reading
Three of Lev Dzyuba’s children, ages 15, 10, and 8, were starved and imprisoned for months by their father and his sisters Alina Dzyuba and Natalia Mellon. The children were adopted from Ukraine in 2012. According to the children’s maternal aunt, their mother Larisa died shortly after the adoption, and they were subsequently homeschooled by Alina and Natalia while their father worked. Larisa’s obituary and family photos indicate that the Dzyubas had four children; it is unknown whether the fourth child was also abused.
The children were rescued after an anonymous tip brought authorities to the house. Dzyuba and his sisters were charged with cruelty to children and false imprisonment.
Date: August 14, 2013
Location: Conyers, Georgia Continue reading
Christopher Smithburg, age 16, was physically abused and starved by his mother, Susan Smithburg. Christopher, his 17-year-old brother, and his 10-year old sister were adopted and homeschooled.
On March 26, Christopher lied to his mother about making toast and was punished by being forced to do 1,500 push-ups. After four hours of push-ups, Christopher could not continue, so Smithburg hit him in the head. The next day, Christopher ran away from home, camping in the woods for six days until authorities found him and he reported the abuse.
Smithburg was charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect.
Date: March 27, 2014
Location: Nolensville, Tennessee Continue reading
Lauren Kavanaugh, also known as Lauren Calhoun, was freed at age 8 from a six-year imprisonment in a closet where she was systematically tortured, raped, and starved by her mother and stepfather, Barbara and Kenneth Atkinson. The Atkinsons’ other children, who ranged in age from 22 months to 10 years, were also neglected; they did not know how to use a toothbrush or a fork, or how to wipe themselves after going to the bathroom. There is no evidence any of the children were enrolled in school.
Lauren was discovered when her stepfather revealed her condition to a neighbor, who called the police. The Atkinsons were convicted of felony injury to a child and sentenced to life in prison.
Date: June 11, 2001
Location: Hutchins, Texas
Three children—an 8-year-old girl and two boys, ages 5 and 3—were abused, imprisoned, and starved by their parents, Eraca Dawn Craig (left) and Christian Jessica Deanda, who were domestic partners. The children were homeschooled.
The girl had been chained to the wall with shackles around her ankles and a collar around her neck, reportedly to keep her from stealing food. All three children were emaciated and had hardly eaten for months. The 3-year-old boy was the biological child of one of the women and the other two children were adopted. The women were arrested March 15 on charges of felony child cruelty and false imprisonment and the children were placed in foster homes. Craig and Deanda were scheduled for a preliminary hearing on March 28.
Date: March 15, 2014
Location: Salinas, California
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 Continue reading
Minnet (age 9) and Jasmine (age 7) Bowman were murdered in 2006 by their adoptive mother, Renee Bowman, their bodies stored in her basement freezer. The murders were discovered two years later when their then-7-year-old sister jumped out of a second-story window to escape imprisonment in her room. She was found by authorities with open sores and lesions on her buttocks and lower thighs, marks on her neck made by a cord, rope or other item and bruises on her hands and lips. Renee Bowman had adopted Minnet in 2001 and Jasmine and the youngest girl (who were biological siblings) in 2004. She received $2,400 total per month in adoption subsidies for the girls since they were considered to be special needs children, and continued to collect subsidies after their deaths. Minnet was originally enrolled in preschool, but after an employee began to suspect neglect Bowman withdrew the girl and decided to homeschool all three of the girls. Bowman claimed that Minnet died of starvation and that Jasmine died in an argument when Bowman pushed her and her head hit the wall. However, Bowman later told a cellmate that she had smothered both of her daughters with a pillow, and autopsy results showed both girls had died of asphyxiation. Minnet died with broken bones in her arms and hand while Jasmine suffered lacerations to her scalp. While the dates of their death are unknown, Bowman’s boyfriend Joe Dickerson claimed that Minnet disappeared in May 2006 and Jasmine in June 2006. Bowman told Dickerson she had sent the girls to another state to live with a friend. With her daughters’ bodies in the freezer, Bowman moved to Charles County, where CPS investigating an anonymous tip found no evidence to substantiate abuse of the remaining daughter. Then Bowman, freezer still in tow, moved to Lusby, where neighbors were unaware that a child was living in her house. When the girl finally escaped, she was wearing only a t-shirt stained with excrement and she reported that she had been beaten with a hard-heeled shoe. She was taken to the hospital and eventually placed in foster care. Police investigating the allegations discovered the other girls’ bodies in the freezer. Renee Bowman pled guilty in September 2009 to charges of first-degree child abuse in Calvert County and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In 2010, she was tried in Montgomery County and convicted of two counts of murder and three counts of child abuse and sentenced to life without parole.
Date: September 27, 2008
Location: Lusby, Maryland Continue reading
Paramedics responding to a 911 call on Christmas Eve about an “unresponsive” child found that 6-year-old child had physical injuries that suggested foul play. The child was taken to the regional hospital and then airlifted elsewhere for care, where he died four days later in spite of efforts to save his life, and the five other children in the home were taken into Walton County DFCS county. The boy’s adoptive parents, Louis David Jones, 39, and Jami Lea Jones, 36, were charged with aggravated battery and first-degree cruelty to a child. These charges were upgraded to murder after the boy’s death. Both parents were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. News reports described the family as a homeschooling church-going family.
Date: December 28, 2009
Location: Loganville, Georgia Continue reading
Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper were arrested on child abuse charges after they handcuffed their 11-year-old foster son to the porch in November in his underwear with a dead chicken tied around his neck. The foster child and four other adopted children, aged 8, 9, 13, and 14, were removed from the home, which investigators found was littered with animal feces. It is reported that the children were often underfed and hungry and that they were chained to a piece of railroad rail found in the home when they did not finish their homeschool work quickly enough. Larson filed notice of intent to homeschool in March 2012, naming her homeschool the “Eclectic Primer School.” It is unclear when the children were placed with Larson and Harper or where they attended school before being homeschooled. Larson was a supervisor for the Union County Department of Social Services, and is being charged with failure to discharge her duty as a public official as well as intentional child abuse, inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment, and cruelty to animals. The family was reclusive and kept pigs, donkeys, llamas, chickens, turkeys, geese, and other animals.
Date: November, 2013
Location: Union County, North Carolina Continue reading
On September 21, 1992, six year old Hannah Carroll died of severe bleach burns, which covered one third of her body and were left untreated for three days. Hannah, who had Down syndrome, was one of ten special needs children adopted by Kathleen and Timothy Carroll, a fundamentalist Christian homeschooling couple. In the three months after Hannah’s death, three more of the Carrolls’ adopted children died. One month old Chloe died shortly after being returned by court order to the adoption agency that had preliminarily placed her with the Carrolls, and her death was not included in future investigations. The remaining deaths were those of three year old Noah, who suffered seizures, and three year old Mollie, who had mental retardation and severe allergies. When it appeared that Mollie had been dead for 12 hours before her death was reported, officials temporarily removed the remaining Carroll children from the home, returning them shortly before Christmas. In January 1993 Kathleen and Timothy Carroll pleaded guilty to child neglect in relation to Hannah’s death. They were placed on probation and prohibited from adopting more children without court permission. In June 1993, there was a fifth death: twelve year old Josiah, who had cerebral palsy. The county had an inquest in July where inconsistencies emerged between experts’ testimony and family members’ stories. A judge recused himself amid concerns that he had grown too close to the case. In August, the couple’s eldest biological son, James, then 17, was charged with involuntary manslaughter; James had been the one supervising Hannah at the time she received the bleach burns that resulted in her death. A new judge ordered Samuel, then 5, and Isaiah, then 11, to be placed in foster care. In October the bodies of Mollie and Josiah were exhumed, and the deaths of both Hannah and Josiah were ruled homicides while the deaths of Noah and Mollie were ruled inconclusive. In November, James was acquitted of all charges. Kathleen and Timothy immediately turned their attention to regaining custody of Samuel and Isaiah, and were eventually granted home visits. In June 1994, Isaiah implicated James in Josiah’s death. Home visits continued, but the judge ruled that James must not be present. In May 1995, after James had turned 18 and left home, Samuel and Isaiah were returned to the Carrolls. In October 1997, as a result of legal representation by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Carrolls were allowed to resume homeschooling Samuel and Isaiah.
Date: September 21, 1992, through June 14, 1993
Location: Cedarville, Ohio
Savannah and Selena, both adopted, were subjected to horrific sexual abuse at the hands of their adult brother, Michael, who was also adopted. The couple, described only as Mother and J.S. in court documents, had three additional young adopted children and four additional older biological children. When Selena told their mother about her abuse at the hands of her older brother, her mother responded by disciplining her. Selena then went to school officials about the abuse, and her mother responded by withdrawing both Selena and Savannah from school to homeschool them so that they would not “spread lies.” Fortunately, the school officials had already involved the Department of Child Services, and the children were subsequently removed from the home. As the trial continued, allegations surfaced that both J.S. and Mother had sexually abused the children and that J.S. had beaten the children with a belt. After a trial, the court terminated parental rights.
Date: August, 2005
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee Continue reading
David Allen Goddard homeschooled his wife’s adopted stepsister, T.B., who lived with the family, while his wife worked long hours as a nurse. T.B. came to live with the couple when she was 10, and Goddard’s sexual abuse of the girl began immediately. After years of grooming the abuse went from bad to worse, and by the time T.B. was 15 Goddard was raping her regularly. After T.B. reached out to a family friend via facebook, the abuse was reported and Goddard was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Date: May, 2010
Location: Santa Ana, California
Erica Lynn Parsons, who would today be 15, has not been seen since 2011, but she was not reported missing until August 2013, when her 19 year old step-brother went to the authorities. Erica’s adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, claim that they left her with a biological relative, but their story does not add up and neither Erica nor the biological relative are anywhere to be found. Relatives who knew the family are now saying that the Parsons household was often violent, and that Erica frequently bore suspicious bruises. There was also a previous child abuse case that had been closed. Erica was not reported missing by her school because she was homeschooled from 2005, when she was seven, until her disappearance. When they began homeschooling Erica, Casey and Sandy filed the required North Carolina homeschool paperwork, establishing “Parsons Christian School.” Authorities did not know that Erica did not participate in the required standardized testing in the two years since her disappearance because the state does not check up on homeschools or require them to submit their test scores. As the adoptive parents of a special needs child, Casey and Sandy continued collecting state checks until she was reported missing. The search for Erica is ongoing, and her biological mother has been calling for greater oversight of homeschooling.
Date: August, 2013
Location: Salisbury, North Carolina Continue reading
Wilson and Brenda Sullivan’s 17 year old mentally handicapped adopted son was found caged in a crib by investigators responding to an anonymous tip. He was severely malnourished and weighed only 49 pounds, less than what he weighed when the couple had adopted him at age 7 ten years prior. Two other adopted children, aged 10, were kept in similar cages. The family homeschooled. The couple had been praised for their willingness to adopt special needs children by the governor himself in 1995. Wilson died before the trial was completed, and Brenda was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Date: March 8, 2005
Location: Jacksonville, Ohio
Zion Dutro tortured and molested his four biological daughters and two adopted nieces over the course of two decades, with the assistance of his wife, Glenda Lea Dutro. Glenda would choose one of the girls and tell her it was her turn to “cuddle” with Zion. The abuse involved sodomy in addition to other sexual acts. The abuse began in 1982 and continued until 2003. Collectively, the girls were raped over a thousand times and lived in abject fear of their parents. The couple, who homeschooled the children, were known as friendly churchgoers, but their squeaky-clean public appearance masked what was actually going on in the home. The girls were homeschooled, and in 1995 they told the pastor of their Pentecostal church about their abuse in a desperate cry for help. He responded by telling the Dutros of their daughters’ accusations and then discussing the matter with a church member who was also a police officer. This police officer then spoke with the girls, violating common procedure in a multitude of ways in an effort to protect his fellow church member. After both the church and the city failed to take action, the torture worsened. The girls were “isolated, starved, tortured, sleep-deprived and beaten.” The abuse only came to light in 2009, when the girls, now grown, once again reported their childhood abuse after learning that the Dutros were looking at adopting children from Mexico. The young women then sued the city for failing to protect them.
Date: January 1, 2009
Location: Antioch, California
Paul Lavoe beat his teenage daughter and a teenage relative adopted from Ghana with electrical cords in what one doctor called an “extremely violent assault.” The two girls were enrolled in a virtual school but quickly fell behind in their work because their parents expected them to watch their three younger children while both parents worked each day. The beatings were routine and were often carried out using whatever objects Lavoe had on hand at his motorcycle shop. Lavoe claimed the beatings were punishments for stealing.
Date: April 16, 2012
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Ardee Verlon Tyler and Penny Sue Tyler adopted five girls from Liberia in 2005. The couple had two older biological children. The second adopted daughter, age 8 when she first arrived in the family and 10 when the children were finally removed, was singled out for abuse by her adoptive parents. They tied her with a rope during the day and restrained her in the basement at night, beating her, depriving her of food, and once forcing her to spend the night outside in the cold for stealing a cookie. She was also sexually assaulted by her older adoptive brother (he pleaded no contest at trial), and her older adoptive sister cooperated with their parents in restraining her. The Tylers were convicted of child abuse and each received ten year sentences. The Tyler’s older biological son was sentenced to two years and their biological older daughter received a 90 day sentence. The abuse did not come to light until the Tylers were in the process of handing the girl off to another family. The Tylers homeschooled all of the children and a retired teacher who came in to help out with the girls’ education served as a key witness against the couple in court. The other adopted children were also abused—deprived of food and called degrading names—but none to the extent that the second adopted daughter was. The couple asserted that the second adopted daughter was controlled by Satan and that the abuse they subjected her to was for her own good.
Date: October 1, 2007
Location: Fairview, Oklahoma
Ingrid Brewer adopted two children out of foster care, and reported them missing on January 15 less than a year later. The children, an 8 year old boy and a 7 year old girl, were found laying by a road not far from their home, wearing only light clothing in the mid-20s weather and hiding under a blanket. The children, whom Brewer homeschooled, told the sheriff’s deputies that they had run away from home because Brewer beat them. They reported that Brewer locked them in separate bedrooms while she went to work each day and sometimes tied their wrists with zip-ties, beating them with an electrical cord or a hammer and depriving them of food. Both children had injuries that backed up their claims, including wrist marks indicating zip-tie restraint.
Date: January 15, 2013
Location: Palmdale California Continue reading
A 13 year old girl and an 11 year old boy were forced by their adoptive parents, Earl and Deborah Dinkler, to run 15 laps around the property before breakfast each day. This had been going on for four years when the abuse came to light. If Earl and Deborah were not satisfied with the children’s speed, they beat the children with a belt, a miniature baseball bat, and a bamboo rod. The Dinklers also withheld food and water as punishment. The abuse came to light when the girl ran to a neighbor’s house and hid one morning, exhausted, panting, and afraid of being punished for not doing her exercises. Earl and Deborah were found guilty and convicted of cruelty.
Date: August 9, 2007
Location: McDonough, Georgia Continue reading
Todd Mortensen is alleged to have sexually abused a 12 year old girl placed in his home. The girl was in the process of being adopted by another family, but when this family began to struggle with caring for her they made private arrangements to place her with the Mortensens. Todd and Lisa Mortensen homeschooled the girl along with two other foster daughters and one adopted daughter. Todd convinced the 12 year old that their sexual relationship was appropriate in the eyes of God by showing her an error on her baptismal certificate that listed him as her husband. The family was Mormon. The girl was not Todd’s only victim, and this was not his first offense.
Date: April 4, 2010
Location: Farmington, New Mexico Continue reading
Esther Combs, originally named Elsa Garcia, was taken from Baptist Children’s Home in Valparaiso, Indiana, by Joseph and Evangeline Combs at 4 months old in 1978. Esther was never actually adopted, although she grew up believing that she had been. Joseph, a Baptist minister, sexually abused Esther and Evangeline beat her with a baseball bat and a hose, burned her with a curling iron, and pulled out chunks of her flesh with pliers, leaving more than 400 scars across her body. Esther was treated as a family servant, and while her parents were ostensibly homeschooling her she was not actually educated. The Combs kept Esther imprisoned in their home even after she turned 18; the abuse came to light after she was hospitalized following a suicide attempt at age 19 and doctors found evidence of prior brutal physical abuse. The Combs were arrested in 1998; Joseph Combs was sentenced to 114 years in prison for kidnapping, rape, assault and perjury, while Evangeline Combs was sentenced to 65 years for kidnapping and child abuse. Esther has since been reunited with her birth parents.
Date: November, 1998
Diana and Samuel Franklin confined their 15 year old adopted daughter to a chicken coop, required her to wear a shock collar, and restricted her food and water. The girl was adopted in 2007, five years before the abuse was discovered, and was homeschooled. She reported that her long stints in the chicken coop (up to six straight days) and other outbuildings (including a small outhouse) were punishments for not completing her schoolwork or for not doing her chores properly, and that jolts of electricity from the shock collar were likewise a form of punishment administered by her parents. Diana told a neighbor that she was just “doing what the Bible says” when administering such punishments. The girl was also required to perform extensive manual labor.
A year and a half after Steven and Mikelann Renwick adopted their 6 year old son, he was admitted to the hospital with severe injuries to his head, legs, and body. The boy had been only allowed in the house for meals. He was forced to sleep in the laundry room with the dogs and was locked in the family’s garage the remainder of the day. The child was also beaten regularly, sometimes until he bled. The family homeschooled. Mikelann Renwick served as a pastor at a Holiness church.
Tai-Ling Gigliotti, an accomplished musician who was employed in a local orchestra, adopted her biological nephew from Taiwan when he was four years old. In 2007, she removed him from school, telling school officials she planned to homeschool him. Whether she followed this with the proper paperwork for her state is unclear. Two years later, at age 16, the boy ran away from home and told of horrifying abuse at the hands of his adoptive mother. Gigliotti had regularly stripped the teen naked and beat him brutally with a board and a hose; she locked him in a bathroom at night and during the day when she went to work. When he ran away the boy was covered with bruises and lacerations and had a broken arm. Gigliotti claimed that the teen was rebellious and that she only acted in self defense. Despite these claims, she was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
Date: February 11, 2009
Location: Spring Hill, Florida
Dominick Diehl, who also went by Andrew, was 13 when he was beaten to death by his adoptive parents, Michael and Karen Diehl. He was regularly tied to the floor of the family’s bus and beaten with rods and a homemade whip as a form of punishment. The couple homeschooled their brood of 17, including 4 biological children and 13 adopted special needs children. Two years before Andrew’s death, the family left their home in Post Falls, Idaho, and went on a road trip that was originally only supposed to last for a couple of months. During these years they lived in their school bus, parking at camp sites across the country. While the family of 19 was on a 2 year school bus trip they had become heavily involved in a fundamentalist Christian faith community in Virginia. The couple was sentenced to a collective seventy years in prison for the beating death of their adopted son.
Date: October 29, 1986
Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
8 year old Joseph Beebe was beaten to death with a bamboo rod by his adoptive mother, Edith Beebe. Joseph was one of six special needs children adopted by Edith and her husband Brian; all were homeschooled. The Beebes were deeply religious and believed that they must discipline their children with what they called a “holy rod.” All of the children were beaten with the rod, and were on occasion locked in a room without food or water and dragged about by their hair. When Joseph died, his body was covered with severe bruises. Edith Beebe was convicted and sentenced to 75 years in prison.
Date: March 17, 2000
Location: Tarkington Prairie, Texas Continue reading
Kimberly Ann Forder called 911 after her 8 year old underweight adopted son, Christopher Forder, died on the bedroom floor of untreated pneumonia in circumstances that a local sheriff called “sheer torture.” The boy’s body was found to be covered with bruises. The family, which homeschooled and home-churched, claimed to be practicing faith healing, that their religious beliefs did not allow modern medicine, and said Christopher had reactive attachment disorder and the bruises were from him scratching himself and throwing himself into walls. Kimberly Ann filed one letter of intent to homeschool in 2003, a year after Christopher’s death, but did not file letters in previous or subsequent years, as required by Washington state. Social workers reported that the family was socially isolated and that after Christopher’s death they found that no one in the home would speak to investigators about it. The Forders had 3 biological adult children and four adopted children in addition to Christopher. After Christopher’s death, the Forders had four months of daily monitoring visits by social workers but did not have the remaining children removed from home due to a legal technicality.
In the four years after Christopher’s death, the Forders adopted a set of Liberian triplets, moved to Liberia to work as missionaries, and took their 7 living adopted children with them. A break in Christopher’s case came when police conducted interviews with the Forders’ eldest adult biological son, 23 year old Michael V. Forder, who was charged with raping another adult biological sibling. Michael V. Forder agreed to testify about Christopher’s death in exchange for a reduced sentence in his own case. Although he later recanted his testimony and was given a full 8.5 year sentence for rape, charges were filed in Christopher’s death. Kimberly Ann Forder was in the United States at the time, receiving medical treatment, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Back in Liberia, Robert Forder dropped off the 7 living adopted children at a WACSN orphanage, which then turned them over to the State Department. The State Department brought the children back to the United States and put them in foster care in Washington state. Robert Forder was not charged with any crimes and remained in Liberia, in poor health. Kimberly Ann was charged with Christopher’s death and arrested, tried, sentenced to 27 months in prison, and was reported to be trying to get her remaining adopted children back upon release.
Date: November 22, 2002
Location: Seabeck, Washington Continue reading
7 year old Lucas Ciambrone was forced to sleep in a bathroom with neither towels, toilet paper, or light bulbs. He was fed via a bucket, was thrown to the floor, kicked in the genitals, punched, and had his head held under water. His ears were nearly torn from his body. According to a medical examiner, the blow that ended the boy’s life came at least four hours before his adoptive parents, Heather and Joe Ciambrone, drove him to the hospital. In spite of being 7 years old, he weighed only 32 pounds. Lucas was homeschooled and may have had Reactive Attachment Disorder. The Ciambrones were convicted and are serving life sentences.
Date: May 13, 1995
Location: Rubonia, Florida Continue reading
Viktor Matthey was only 6 years old when he died of cardiac arrest due to hypothermia after adoptive parents Robert and Brenda Matthey locked him overnight in a damp unheated pump room. Viktor was also severely beaten by his adoptive father. The Matthey’s attended a Pentacostal church and homeschooled their four biological children; beginning in September 2000 they sent their four biological children to a church school so that they could focus on their three adopted children. The Mattheys had adopted Victor and his younger twin brothers, aged 4, because they believed that God had called them to do so in an effort to alleviate an international orphan crisis. Both Robert and Brenda were sentenced to 10 years in prison for confining Viktor to a pump room, 10 years for excessive corporal punishment, and 7 years for failing to provide medical care. The sentences run concurrently. Viktor, along with his biological twin brothers, was adopted from Blagoschevensk, Amur, Russia, only 10 months before his death. The twins were later adopted by Robert’s mother, who has disavowed her son. Both Mattheys were released from jail in Fall of 2008.
Date: October 31, 2000
Location: Union Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
In July 2000, 10 year old Timothy Boss was beaten to death by his adoptive parents, Donald Boss Jr. and Lisa Boss. He spent the night before his death bound to a chair in the family’s basement. Timothy Boss and three other special needs children were adopted by Donald Jr. and Lisa Boss in Michigan; the couple had since moved their family of thirteen (four adopted children and seven biological children) to Iowa, where Timothy was homeschooled during the 1999 to 2000 school year. Several days after Timothy’s death, per Iowa’s homeschooling regulations, school officials contacted the family regarding Timothy’s end-of-the-year assessment. The Bosses told officials that the boy had returned to Michigan to live with family. Some of Timothy’s adopted brothers were enrolled as homeschool students for the 2000 to 2001 school year, but Timothy was not (the couple’s biological children were sent to public school). Timothy’s parents were not suspected of murder until a year and a half later, when relatives in Michigan reported that they had not seen the boy. Two years after his death, Timothy’s body was found buried in the family’s basement. Donald Boss was sentenced to fifty years in prison.
Location: Remsen, Iowa
A 6 year old boy and a 5 year old girl were abused by their adoptive parents, Richard and Christine Dodson. The Dodsons severely starved and beat the boy, and broke the girl’s bones multiple times. The boy was reported to have been beaten with a stick, often forced to run laps around a tree for up to an hour, and made to sleep in a closet. While running laps around the tree he fell and hit his head, was put in the closet by Christine Dodson, and was later rushed to the hospital, where he was in a coma for 3 days. Richard Dodson’s father reported being fearful for the boy’s wellbeing, seeing Richard spank him for eating a potato chip and a piece of bread at a family reunion. A neighbor reported that there was a racial component to the abuse, as the Dodson’s were white, the children they adopted were black, and Christine Dodson had said that that she punished the adopted boy more harshly because she did not want the 6 year old to turn into “a lazy black man.” The couple were charged, convicted, and each sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Date: July, 1995
Location: Round Rock, Texas
Lisa Holland struck her 7 year old adopted son Ricky in the head with a hammer and didn’t seek medical help while he slowly died. Lisa and her husband Tim dumped Ricky’s body in a swamp and said he had disappeared. Police found the body six months later, and Lisa and Tim were charged in his death and given long prison terms. Lisa had withdrawn him from school to be homeschooled over a year before his death in a dispute over whether he needed special-education services. The child endured a variety of abuse before his death, including food deprivation and being tied up in the family’s basement.
Date: July 1, 2005
Location: Summit Township, Michigan Continue reading
Irma and Dino Pavlis adopted two children from Russia, Alex, aged 6, and his biological sister, aged 5. Only six weeks after the adoption, the boy died in the hospital of injuries sustained from beatings he suffered at the hands of his adoptive mother. Irma said she beat Alex because the child was difficult and she lost control, but she denied that those injuries could have killed him and insisted that Alex also harmed himself. Irma was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The children were being homeschooled while a sufficient school was located.
Date: December 18, 2003
Location: Schaumburg, Illinois Continue reading
The sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her adoptive father, Stephen Douglas James, began when she was 11, the girl reported, but she did not initially tell anyone of the abuse because she was afraid that her father would hurt her or her brothers. She finally told her adoptive mother, who confronted James about it. James admitted to the acts and tried to escape trial by faking his suicide, which included severing his ring finger and leaving it in a hotel room with a divorce decree and suicide note, but was caught, charged, and sentenced to two life terms in prison. The girl was homeschooled along with her three adopted brothers and the couple’s biological children. Before the abuse came to light, James taught science lessons for other homeschooled children in the community.
Date: December 2001
Location: Bastrop County, Texas
Tammy Renea Andrews allegedly tortured her 10 year old adopted son, whom she homeschooled while sending her biological children to school. Andrews is charged with routinely tying the boy up or chaining him, denying him food, and beating him with a baseball bat and a hammer. She also allegedly pinched his tongue with a staple puller and pliers, and shot him with a BB gun and then refused to seek medical care for him (the bullet was found lodged in his abdomen by a doctor who examined him after he was removed from the home). The allegations of abuse came to light after a neighbor called to report that the boy was being stabbed in the hand by his mother. Officers who arrived on the scene found that the boy had blood on his hands and pants and that his body was covered in odd scars.
Date: February 2010
Location: Safford, Arizona
Officials removed four of Anya James’s adopted children from her home after an older child, who had run away from home and was living on her own, reported her adoptive mother’s abuse. Another older adopted child had lodged a child abuse complaint after moving out of the home several years earlier, but when officials had visited the home James had convinced them that all was well and officials did not speak to the children out of her presence. When James’s four remaining children, aged 13, 15, 19, and 20, were removed from her home, three of them were severely malnourished, their bodies covered with soft, downy hair associated with starvation and their growth stunted to the extent that they had not gone through puberty. The abuse, including beatings, food deprivation, and imprisonment, had been taking place for over ten years. The children were confined to basement rooms with concrete floors and were required to use kitty litter buckets as toilets. The doors and windows had alarms on them so that James would know if the children tried to escape, and were monitored with video surveillance cameras. The children were homeschooled and allowed minimal contact with the outside world.
Date: October 2010
Location: Anchorage, Alaska Continue reading
Windie Perry and her adult adopted daughter, Elizabeth, 20, sexually abused and tortured two adopted girls, aged 11 and 13. They were accused of imprisoning the girls in a dog kennel, tying them to cots, depriving them of food for days at a time, beating them with bats and hammers, torturing them with staple guns, and sexually penetrating them. Earnest and Windie Perry had six adopted children in total. The abuse came to light after one of the girls fled to a neighbor’s house for help after being beaten. Windie homeschooled all of the children, and her pastor and friends from her homeschool co-op responded to the charges with disbelief, asserting that Windie had always been a devoted and kind mother. Windie and Elizabeth were both found guilty of the charges against them; Windie was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Elizabeth was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
Date: July 2008
Location: Clarksville, Tennessee Continue reading
In 2008, Shelley Blair’s two adopted children, a 12 year old boy and a 13 year old girl, ran away from her home and were found wandering at the side of a busy road. The two were severely malnourished and were covered with bruises. Blair pleaded guilty to beating the children, withholding food from them, binding them with duct tape, and locking them in their rooms indefinitely with only buckets to relieve themselves in. She was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Blair had also pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse in 2003, but was nevertheless allowed to homeschool her two children, who reported that the abuse became worse over time. Blair’s friends and pastor said she was a good caregiver who simply took on too much.
Date: October 2008
Location: Spring Hill, Tennessee
Chrystal Ramirez, 8 years old, died of abuse suffered at the hands of her adoptive parents, Rubin Stephen and Bettie Ramirez. She was beaten with a cane until her brain bled, and was also starved and severely malnourished. She was often restrained, taped at the wrists and ankles and chained to her bed. Her mouth was sometimes taped shut, and she was restrained often enough that she had bed sores. Her bedroom door was locked from the outside, and rigged so that a bell would ring if she tried to leave. Chrystal’s 10 year old sister was similarly starved and restrained, but her 7 year old brother showed no signs of abuse. Chrystal and her sister had attended school several years before, but after teachers reported that she was digging for food in garbage cans and child protective services made contact with the family, they were removed from school to be homeschooled.
Date: August 2007
Location: San Antonio, Texas Continue reading
Peter and Deedra Mitchell withheld food from their six year old adopted son, locked him in a basement, forced him to sleep on a rubber mat, handcuffed him, and hung him upside down in a garage, spinning him until he vomited. The boy was severely malnourished when he was discovered by a social worker responding to a tip made to a child abuse hotline. The couple had two biological children and four other adopted children, but only the one boy was singled out for abuse. All seven children were removed from the couple’s care. The older children, including the abused boy, had attended public school until a year before, when they were withdrawn to be homeschooled. The school said they hadn’t noticed any signs of abuse at the time. The accusations surprised many as Peter and Deedra Mitchell were well known in their community as loving parents who compassionately took in adopted children in family groups. However, the couple plead guilty and were sentenced to probation. After taking parenting classes they regained custody of all of their children except for the one they had abused.
Date: September 2004
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
An 8 year old adopted son of Matthew and Amy Sweeney ran away from home after yet another beating and sought help from a neighbor. The child had deep bruising across his arms and back that indicated that he received frequent brutal beatings, but was otherwise healthy. The neighbor reported the abuse and he was removed from his adoptive parents’ custody. The child had been adopted from Russia five or six years earlier and was being homeschooled.
Date: July 2012
Location: Bristow, Virginia Continue reading
All 18 of the children living with Tom and Debra Schmitz, some adopted and some biological, were removed from their home after a nurse in their employ reported abuse and neglect. Many of the children had been placed with them illegally, but the Schmitzes insisted that they felt called by God to care for needy children and were loving parents and not abusive. The couple were accused of beating their children, locking them in cage-like bunk beds, holding the children’s heads underwater, forcing one child to eat his own vomit, locking the children in a dark cellar, tying children into their beds, putting the children on a diet of bread and water as punishment, lancing a boil with a rusty box cutter, and forcing the children to dig what they were told were their own graves. Debra homeschooled four of the children, citing behavioral problems. The nurse who reported the abuse said Debra told her she was going to begin homeschooling one of the older children because she was concerned that the girl would talk to a school official about her mistreatment. The couple had been accused of abuse in Wisconsin before moving to Tennessee, but social workers had found the accusations unsubstantiated at that time. The couple’s older biological daughter, who was no longer in the home when their children were removed, said that her mother had once been a “normal mom” but that she had changed. The couple ultimately plead guilty to the accusations.
Date: June 2004
Location: Trenton, Tennessee Continue reading
Mark Hooper, 42, and his wife, Susan Hooper, 20, have been charged with starving their 9, 10, and 11 year old adopted children. Mark is the pastor of a local Baptist church and Susan homeschooled the children. In February of 2013 the 9 year old girl ran away to seek help. The girl was taken into protective custody and told officials she ran away because she “was tired of not getting dinner because of my math” and because she was “afraid of mom.” She weighed only 31 pounds, less than half of the average for her age. She was examined at a hospital and found to be the size of a five year old, and to have signs of long-term starvation and severe growth retardation. The two remaining children were then also taken into protective custody. Together, the three told of being denied meals by their parents for not completing their homeschool lessons perfectly, being denied permission to use the bathroom until they wet themselves (and then being punished for doing so), and being beaten with a paddle, belt, and pots. The three children were adopted by the Hoopers in 2007, six years prior to their discovery. The couple is being charged with three counts of child endangerment.
Date: February 2013
Location: Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania Continue reading
Kathryn Kreier punished her 14 year old adopted daughter by depriving her of food, forcing her to sleep outside naked, and fracturing her fingers. Her husband Kenneth Kreier, the girl’s biological father, did nothing to stop the abuse. The abuse took place between September 2007 and December 2008, during which the girl’s weight fell from 91 pounds to 70 pounds. Kathryn Kreier locked the refrigerator and cupboards to keep the girl from stealing food. Kathryn told school staff to not allow the girl to eat breakfast or lunch at the school, insisting that she had an eating disorder and was hoarding food, and after school staff fed her anyway (because of her starved appearance) Kathryn withdrew the girl from school to homeschool her. The abuse came to light in late 2008 after a woman who boarded with the family reported the couple. After a hospital stay, the girl was released to live with her grandparents, who she had lived before her stint living with her father and adoptive mother. Kathryn Kreier was charged with child abuse and Kenneth Kreier was charged with failing to prevent abuse. The family lived in Wisconsin.
Date: December 2008
Location: Juneau, Wisconsin
Leslie Tiesler is accused of starving three adopted sons, aged 13 and 14, shooting them with a BB gun, beating them with a spoon, and confining them to a tool chest for days. The other two children in the home, one biological, were not abused. Leslie’s ex-husband, Brad Thills, adopted the four children in 2008, but the children continued to live with Leslie while Brad was deployed, and it was in her care that the alleged abuse took place. The children are now in foster care and Brad has been charged as an accomplice in the abuse; he maintains that he had no idea how the children were treated while he was deployed and that he returned home to find them in miserable conditions. The children’s plight was not noticed because Leslie was homeschooling them. A month and a half after removal from the home, the 3 abused boys, who had been systematically starved for at least 14 months and were emaciated when removed from the home, had gained 27, 20 and 10 pounds.
Date: May 2012
Location: Cameron, North Carolina
David and Glenda Kinghorn had 2 biological children and four adopted children, and took in as many as 8 additional children from disrupted adoptions. David was charged and convicted of raping one of these children, a girl aged 13. There were also allegations that the Kinghorns punched a 10 year old boy, Sasha Bignell (one of the children obtained from a disrupted adoption), tied him to a pole, and scalded him with boiling water, though charges were not pressed and the allegations were made after the couple had given him up, stating that he was a troubled child, and they were unable to care for him. After the rape charges, Glenda, who had stayed home and homeschooled the children for years, divorced her husband so that she could retain custody.
Date: October 2005
Location: Mena, Arkansas Continue reading
Kenneth H. Brandt pleaded guilty to raping his three sons, ages 9 to 12; two were adopted and the other was in the process of being adopted. Brandt also pleaded guilty to prostituting one of the boys, aged 10, out to two other men. Not long before the sexual abuse was discovered, Brandt had removed the three boys from their school to homeschool them, removing their access to anyone they could ask for help. The abuse was discovered in a sting operation when an undercover detective posing as interested in sex with underage boys and communicated with Brandt online. Brandt had also adopted a girl, but she was not subject to abuse. Brandt was found guilty and sentenced to sixty years in prison.
Date: February 2012
Location: Troy, Ohio Continue reading
John and Linda Dollar are accused of abusing their 5 adopted children, ages 12, 13, 14, 14, and 16, by branding them with a cattle prod, striking their feet with hammers, pulling out their toenails with pliers, and binding them with chains. The Dollars also deprived the children of food to the extent that the twins, aged 14, weighed only 36 and 38 pounds. The abuse was discovered when John Dollar called 911 to report that there was blood gushing from his 16 year old son’s head. There were three other children in the home who were not abused. The Dollars homeschooled their children through a private umbrella school.
Date: January 21, 2005
Location: Beverly Hills, Florida Continue reading