Two girls, L. (b. 1998) and M. (b. 2002), were starved and neglected by their adoptive mother, Mary Heller (pictured). The girls were homeschooled.
The girls were adopted as young children, L. from China and M. from Mongolia. Both attended public school until approximately 2006, when Heller pulled them from school to homeschool them, allegedly because they were “shy”. However, according to the girls, Heller only taught them numbers and the alphabet before she stopped educating them. After the girls were rescued in 2017, they were enrolled in middle school, where M. “was found by educators to be capable of doing only the simplest of math calculations and was trailing behind even special-needs students. But by the end of the term, she was doing well, and her teachers regarded her as ‘a very nice girl and a hard worker.'”
Heller did not provide the girls with food and their home had a foul odor. Neighbors were concerned about the family and made multiple calls to child services; Heller coached the girls on how to respond to a child services visit in 2016 and told the girls to hide when anyone visited the home. The girls were not allowed to have friends and were only allowed to leave the home when they walked to the end of the driveway to get the mail.
The neglect came to light in January 2017 when the girls’ cousin asked two women to check on them. The women took the girls shopping, where the girls did not know how to order food and one said, “I always dreamed of this, going to the store.” The next day, Heller called 911 to report that she was injured. While she was hospitalized, authorities interviewed the girls. Heller was charged with neglect.
Date: January 2017
Location: Decatur, Indiana