In the late 1990s, 18-month-old Gail Perkins was kidnapped by her father, Allen Perkins, from her Greensboro, North Carolina, home in the midst of a custody dispute. Along with his mother, Ruth Perkins, Allen fled with the girl to Alabama and later Ohio, where he claimed to be homeschooling his now 6-year-old daughter (it is unknown whether he followed Ohio’s homeschool law or, more likely, homeschooled under the radar). On February 23, 2002, five years after Gail was kidnapped, private investigators finally tracked the family down and returned Gail to her mother, Nikki Jones.
Date: February 23, 2002
Location: Streetsboro, Ohio Continue reading
Teddy Foltz-Tedesco, 14, was beaten unconscious by his mother’s boyfriend, Zaryl G. Bush. Bush then threatened Teddy’s younger twin brothers, 8, into helping him cover up the scene of the crime. Teddy was not taken to the hospital until several hours after the incident and was pronounced dead five days later, after suffering from internal bleeding and brain contusions. The abuse started three year prior, when Bush started dating Widdersheim. The family became increasingly isolated, and Teddy’s father did not see him after his tenth birthday. Two years before Teddy’s death a grandmother tried to intervene in the family, but Widdersheim refused to believe her children. Friends and neighbors contacted social services, but after teachers at Teddy’s school started an inquiry with the Ohio children’s services agency, Widdersheim withdrew her children from public school to homeschool them. Zaryl Bush was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder charges, four counts of child endangering, and two counts of intimidation. Shain Widdersheim was sentenced to 15 years in prison on four counts of child endangerment and obstructing justice. On December 17, 2013, State Senator Capri Cafaro introduced Senate Bill 248, “Teddy’s Law”, which would require a school superintendent to check names of parents who propose to homeschool against child abuse and children’s services agencies’ lists.
Date: January 26, 2013
Location: Struthers, Ohio 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
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
8 year old Willie Robinson, who died of pneumonia due to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, would have survived if given proper cancer treatment. His parents, Monica Hussing and William Robinson Sr., had not provided Willie or their five other children, ages 5, 6, 7, 13, and 14, with medical care in three years. After receiving a concerned phone call, a caseworker had become involved with the family the previous year, and had noted that Willie’s neck was oddly swollen. The caseworker urged Willie’s parents to put him in school and obtain medical coverage for him, and Monica promised to get her medical benefits in order but said she wanted to homeschool Willie after a bullying incident on a bus. When Monica did not follow their case plan goals, legal action was threatened and the family responded by moving across the state. A month later, Willie died. Monica and William Sr. were convicted of both medical neglect and educational neglect.
Date: March 22, 2008
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
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
Thomas Lavery, 57, plead guilty to attempted child endangerment after being accused of bullying his five homeschooled children to win spelling bees and excel academically by beating them and forcing them to study for long periods without sleep or bathroom breaks. Lavery also jumped on his daughter, Marjory, and threatening to kill her after she took second place in the national spelling bee, and forced his children to lick spilled food off of his shoes. The family lived in Ohio.
Location: Akron, Ohio Continue reading
Michael and Sharon Gravelle forced their eleven adopted special needs children to sleep in stacked cages rigged with alarms. At night, the children were so afraid of setting off the alarms that they would urinate in their clothes rather than leave their cages to go to the bathroom. The children were also emotionally abused, spanked with boards, and sometimes had their heads held underwater in a toilet as punishment. The children were homeschooled through an online charter school program. The family lived in Ohio.
Date: September 2005
Location: Clarksfield, Ohio Continue reading
Makayla Norman had cerebral palsy and was unable to walk, talk, or care for herself. Her mother homeschooled her and occasionally hired a nurse to help with her care. Makayla’s condition at the time of her death at age 14 was described by the homicide detective as “horrific.” Makayla’s hair and eyebrows were infested with lice and her body was covered from head to toe in open bedsores. Her skin was caked with dirt and her hips were coated with feces. Makayla died of starvation, and her body was so thin it was skeletal. The family lived in Ohio.
Date: March 1, 2011
Location: Dayton, Ohio Continue reading