Tulsa County prosecutors have added sex-abuse counts involving two foster children

He already had been charged with three counts and was arrested at a Texas airport while en route to Costa Rica.
By BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2011 2:02 AM
Last Modified: 6/30/2011 8:41 AM

Tulsa County prosecutors have added sex-abuse counts involving two foster children to the case of a man who already was charged with sexually abusing another girl.

Donald Ellis Lehmbeck, 64, was charged March 24 with two counts of child sexual abuse and one count of possessing obscene or indecent writings. Those abuse counts involved a 6-year-old girl who is a relative of a woman who lived with Lehmbeck, records show.
At a March hearing, Deputy Jeremy Yerton said the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office received information regarding allegations against Lehmbeck made by two girls who were in his foster care.
A prosecutor said then that those accusations were being investigated.
Two sex-abuse counts against Lehmbeck involving two foster children were added June 17, records show.
Law enforcement officials reported that Lehmbeck, of Tulsa, was arrested March 25 at a Texas airport while en route to Costa Rica.
He was booked into the Tulsa Jail on the first three counts on April 4.
At an April 12 hearing, Tulsa County Special Judge Dawn Moody denied bail for Lehmbeck, concluding that if bail were granted, "he would be a flight risk due to the fact that he was apprehended before boarding an international flight."
A preliminary hearing for Lehmbeck on the five felony counts began Monday and is set to resume July 18.
Defense attorney Allen Smallwood indicated previously that the original allegations against Lehmbeck arose after the defendant had ordered the female family member of the 6-year-old girl to vacate his residence.
In a misdemeanor case filed March 23, Lehmbeck was charged with domestic assault and battery involving an accusation that he grabbed that woman and pushed her against a wall with force and violence on March 18.
That charge was dismissed June 3 at a prosecutor's request.

Court: Woman Sane When She Murdered Foster Daughter

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- Jurors in Martinez deliberated for a little more than an hour Friday before finding that an Antioch woman was sane when she tortured and abused her two foster children and murdered one of them in 2008.

Shemeeka Davis, 40, sobbed uncontrollably as the verdict was read.

In June, the same jury convicted Davis of first-degree murder and two counts each of torture and child abuse for the torture, abuse and killing of her niece, 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis, and the torture and abuse of Jazzmin's twin brother, who survived.

She now faces up to two life sentences for her crimes.

Prosecutor Satish Jallepalli said during the trial that Davis had beat the children with belts, electrical cords and a wooden closet rod and burned them with boiling water and an iron. She reportedly locked them in their closet for long periods of time and withheld food from them.

When Jazzmin died on Sept. 2, 2008, she was so malnourished that she only weighed 78 pounds. She was 5 feet 7 inches tall. Her brother was also severely malnourished.

Davis also withheld medical treatment from the children and prevented Jazzmin from going to school for about a year before her death.

Her attorney Betty Barker argued during trial that Davis was legally insane and suffered from several severe mental illnesses, including psychotic delusions, which caused her to falsely believe that Jazzmin and her brother were evil and were trying to poison her and her biological daughter, who was 7-years-old when Jazzmin died.

Barker argued that Davis, in her delusional state, believed she was punishing the children to make them behave and was unable to see the damage she was doing.

Jallepalli agreed that Davis was mentally ill, but said she went to great lengths to conceal the abuse, which showed that she knew what she was doing was wrong and that she was therefore legally sane when she committed her crimes.

"I'm glad the jury saw what was kept behind locked doors in that closet," Jallepalli said outside the courthouse this afternoon.

"Justice has been served," said Mysha Gregory, the twins' aunt on their mother's side.

During closing arguments, Barker said Davis was the only person in the family who stepped up to take care of Jazzmin and her brother.

Gregory, however, said members of her side of the family had tried to reach out to Davis and the twins, but Davis cut them off.

"All the doctors agreed that she was very, very mentally ill," Barker said.

"Now she will spend the rest of her life in prison without the mental health help she needs," Barker said.

Barker said that Davis is still mentally ill and even with the medications she is on, she continued to disassociate throughout the trial, which was held in two phases, the first to determine Davis' guilt and the second to determine whether she was legally sane at the time.

After the verdict was read, Davis was crying too hard to be able to set a date for sentencing. She is scheduled to return to Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on Tuesday to set a sentencing date.

Since Jazzmin's death, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, which was in charge of overseeing Davis' care of the twins, has agreed to a $4 million settlement with Jazzmin's brother.

The Antioch Unified School District board has also approved a $750,000 settlement with Jazzmin's brother and made changes to the district's attendance policy.

Man Sentenced to 12 Years for Abuse of Foster Children

A Coon Rapids man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the sexual abuse of his two foster children.

Joseph Leonard Larson, 34, pled guilty to two counts of First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, according to the Ramsey County District Court.

The two victims – who are now 17 and 23, were under Larson’s foster care when he was living in St. Paul.

The victim who is now 17 reported that Larson sexually abused him more than once between Aug. 27, 2003, and Jan. 1, 2006.

The second victim reported that Larson sexually abused him in 2003.

The case was investigated in February 2010 after one of the boys told an employee of Alpha Human Services that Larson had abused him while living under Larson’s care.

A background search on Larson revealed a 2004 report that Larson’s Visa card and Mastercard were used to purchase access to websites containing child pornography in 2002 and 2003. Officers came to Larson’s home in January of 2005 and questioned him about the report, but Larson claimed his identity had been stolen.

In February 2010, the investigator obtained search warrants to search Larson’s computer, which was then seized, and Larson was taken into custody. Investigation shows that thousands of images of child pornography were found.

Larson was living at 9772 Larch Avenue in Coon Rapids in February 2010.

Mother-of-six who invented 15 foster children for benefits fraud is jailed


Kerry Melia claimed £62,243 in benefits for invented children

Kerry Melia, 31, used the cash to buy a menagerie of exotic animals

A jobless mother of six already living on handouts invented 15 more children to claim more than £60,000 in a benefits fraud.

Her brazen operation was rumbled only when investigators realised she had made claims for ten new ‘foster children’ in just six months.

Kerry Melia, 30, was already legitimately claiming tax credits for her children when she submitted the false claims for non-existent youngsters.

She was able to get away with it because no one from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, who run the system, checked whether the children existed.

The greedy mother was jailed for eight months yesterday after a court heard she had continued to submit claims for a further five ‘foster children’ even though she was under investigation.

Sentencing her, Judge Michael Dudley said Melia was guilty of an ‘absolutely blatant fraud’ as he dismissed a plea from her barrister that a custodial sentence would prevent her continuing to breast-feed her seven-month-old child.

The judge said she had fraudulently ‘obtained public money from people who work hard for it’.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that Melia obtained a total of £62,243 in tax credits for her fictitious brood – £10,000 more than she had claimed legitimately with husband Stephen, 34, in income support, child benefit, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

The couple, both unemployed, lived in a shabby council house in Tipton, West Midlands, where Melia was arrested last year. Investigators discovered they had turned their three-bedroom home into a menagerie of exotic pets including terrapins, cockatiels, and a large snake. Investigators are at a loss as to how the couple – who do not own a car – spent the money.

They are believed to have used some of the cash to buy a static caravan, which was kept on a site in North Wales. But a source told the Daily Mail they had been forced to give it up after defaulting on the payments.

The court heard that the pair also made legitimate claims for four nephews and nieces who were briefly in their care.


The ease with which Kerry Melia could claim thousands in fraudulent tax credits reveals startling inadequacies in the payout system.

Melia brazenly crafted identities of fake foster children before calling an HMRC tax helpline to tell them she had become a foster parent.

She provided the child’s name and date of birth but, as she was posing as a foster parent, she did not have to provide a birth certificate.

As soon as these details were entered into the HMRC’s system, Melia started to receive monthly payouts.

Melia would have later received an award notice confirming the details of her new foster child. The letter would encourage her to alert the tax office if the details were incorrect.

Using this simple system, Melia registered the details of nine fake children over five months from January to May 2007.

Melia began legitimately claiming tax credits for her own children in 2005. The first nine fictitious claims were successfully lodged between January and May 2007. She attempted – without success – to claim for six other children between June 2007 and April last year. She admitted five specimen charges of fraud at a previous hearing.

Regan Peggs, defending, told the court she had co-operated with the investigation and that her husband had not been involved in any fraudulent activity. Prosecutor Barbara Webster told the court she was not seeking to recoup the money Melia fraudulently claimed because it was clear she had ‘no means’.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘The Government will not tolerate dishonest people stealing public money which pays for vital services.

‘This sentence shows that those who think they can cheat the benefits system should think again.’ HMRC spokesman Jennie Kendall said: ‘The outcome of this latest prosecution shows we are tackling the ruthless theft of money from the public purse needed to fund public services for the benefit of everyone.

‘This will send out a clear and firm message to those falsely claiming tax credits or considering such measures.’

Melia was not answering the door last night at the couple’s semi-detached home on a run-down estate. One neighbour said: ‘I’ve seen them using four or five taxis a day, which can’t be cheap.’

Another added: ‘I feel sorry for their next-door neighbours. They are nice people and keep their houses tidy but this lot do nothing.’

Police: Foster mother was just in it for money

Fresno woman accused in death of infant girl.

A Fresno woman who is accused of killing her 7-week-old foster child didn't like children, but became a foster mother to make money, according to a police affidavit filed in Fresno County Superior Court.

Jovannee Reynolds and her husband, Randall Reynolds, became foster parents in August last year because the couple had credit card debt and outstanding loans, Fresno police detective Teri Terry wrote in her affidavit.

The affidavit was written in support of a search warrant to get copies of the couple's bank records from Aug. 1, 2009, to June 7 of this year, court documents show.

A criminal complaint accuses only Jovannee Reynolds, 23, of murdering her foster child, Mikayla Tabin, who died in September at Children's Hospital Central California. She also is charged with assault causing Mikayla's death by violently shaking the child and child endangerment involving another foster child in her home.

If convicted, she faces at least 25 years to life in prison.
Reynolds, who is free on $200,000 bail, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Reynolds' attorney, Martin Taleisnik, said Tuesday the detective's affidavit surprised him.
"I don't believe she hates children," Taleisnik said.
Taleisnik also said that if police are successful in "planting a seed" that Reynolds hates children, it will cause potential jurors to dislike her and hurt her chances of getting a fair trial.
A police investigation shows the couple were in financial difficulty before becoming foster parents, the affidavit said. Jovannee Reynolds was unemployed, the affidavit said.

"They became foster parents for financial gain, rather than their desire to take care of children," Terry wrote. Foster parents can earn hundreds of dollars a month per child.
To bolster the case, police interviewed the manager of the apartment complex where the couple lived at the time of Mikayla's death. The manager said she was surprised to learn that Jovannee Reynolds was a foster mother because she thought Reynolds hated children, the affidavit said.
The manager also said Jovannee Reynolds complained on a regular basis "about kids playing in the apartment complex and making noise," the detective wrote.
In addition, before Jovannee Reynolds posted bail, jail officials recorded a conversation she had with a visitor, the affidavit said.
The visitor told Reynolds about the allegation that she didn't like kids and Reynolds "acknowledged that this was the case," the affidavit said.
The affidavit says Fresno County social workers placed Mikayla with Reynolds and her husband at their central Fresno apartment on the 3200 block of West Ashlan Avenue on Aug. 30. On Sept. 13, the couple took Mikayla to the hospital after the infant had trouble breathing.
When Mikayla died Sept. 20, the Fresno Police Department's Child Abuse Unit and the Fresno County Coroner's Office launched an investigation.
Reynolds was arrested March 17 after police said the investigation revealed Mikayla died of shaken-baby syndrome, a term used to describe symptoms resulting from violent shaking of an infant or small child's head.
Police did not arrest Reynolds' husband. The couple did not have children of their own.
Reynolds' next court appearance is Thursday.

Social worker struck off over abuse warning failure

Julian Swan denied allegations of misconduct

A social worker from the Vale of Glamorgan has been found guilty of misconduct, after failing to properly warn a foster family about the risks posed by a teenager he placed in their care.

The teenager went on to sexually abuse two young children in the family.

The Care Council of Wales conduct committee found Julian Swan guilty of all four charges against him.

The committee struck him off.

The case goes back to 2008, when a 19-year-old who was about to leave the care system was placed with a foster family in the county.

The family were not warned of the teenager's history of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

'Happened before'

They took him into their home, where he seriously sexually assaulted their two young children. The teenager was later given an indeterminate prison sentence and the council apologised to the family.

On Thursday the disciplinary hearing found that Mr Swan had failed to adequately read the case file and had not prepared an appropriate chronology.

He also failed to conduct an adequate investigation in November 2007, following an allegation that the teenager had inappropriately touched a woman resident in hostel accommodation.

The committee also decided that in November 2008, Mr Swan did not take an appropriate risk assessment in relation to the teenager's placement and failed to advise the carers appropriately of the risks posed by the placement.

Following the incident, the disciplinary hearing was told, a colleague found the relevant information when the teenager's father told him "something like this has happened before".

After pulling out all the files on to the floor, he found the information about the teenager's previous inappropriate behaviour in about 45 minutes.


Mr Swan denied allegations of misconduct and claimed he had been made a scapegoat.

He told the hearing he would have acted differently with hindsight, but he had acted in good faith.

One of the main issues examined during the hearing was whether it was his job to look at the past history of the files or whether, as he assumed, he could take the word of his colleagues who were passing the case on to him as fact.

He claimed he did the latter and, as a result, a critical report from 2002 lay unnoticed in the files, the hearing was told.

He said: "I never sought to diminish my responsibility but there is a shared responsibility.

"I have been scapegoated by the Vale of Glamorgan council."

Ex-foster mother, son sentenced

Mary Bernard, Vernal Express

A Vernal man and his mother were each sentenced last week in a case that involved the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl.

George Blaine Stone was sentenced last Tuesday in 8th District Court to three years to life in prison for one count of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony, and one to 15 years in prison for one count of forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony.

Stone, 46, was initially charged with three counts of rape, a first-degree felony, for plying a 16-year-old girl with vodka until she passed out and then having sex with her at least three times on New Year’s Eve.

In April, Stone entered an Alford plea to the reduced charges, a move that allowed him to resolve the case despite his self-professed inability to recall the sexual assaults due to his own intoxication.

Stone’s mother, Nola Fortine, also faced charges in connection with the incident.

Uintah County prosecutors alleged that Fortine, who was a state-licensed foster parent on Jan. 1, discovered her son and the victim in bed together after the sexual assault had occurred. Rather than report what she’d seen, authorities say she sat the girl down and coached her about what to say if she was questioned about the incident.

That alleged conduct led prosecutors to charge Fortine, 66, with witness tampering, a third-degree felony, and failure to report child abuse, a class B misdemeanor. Fortine pleaded guilty June 7 to the misdemeanor charge, in exchange for the dismissal of the felony charge.

On Wednesday, Eighth District Judge Clark McClellan sentenced Fortine to a suspended six-month jail term and placed her on court probation for one year. She must also pay a $400 fine.

The state Division of Child and Family Services removed three children in foster care from Fortine’s home the same day the victim reported the sexual assault. The state has since stripped Fortine of her foster care license.

Mardela Springs Foster Father Arrested on More Child Sex Charges

Posted: Jul 01, 2011 1:02 PM EDT<em class="wnDate">Friday, July 1, 2011 1:02 PM EST</em>

By Kye Parsons - email

 Stephen James Merritt

MARDELA SPRINGS, Md.- A Mardela Springs foster father arrested in March on charges that he sexually abused three teenage boys is facing new charges following accusations that he sexually abused four more boys.
According to Wicomico County Circuit Court records, the four additional boys are alleging that 39-year-old Stephen James Merritt sexually abused them at his home located on the 24000 block of Main Street Extended.

As a result of an investigation into these latest allegations, a grand jury this week indicted Merritt on the charges of sexual abuse of a minor, second- and third-degree sex offense, and child abuse.

According to charging documents, the incidents allegedly occurred between January 1998 and December 2007, when the four victims were between the ages of 12 and 13.

Merritt has been locked up in the Wicomico County Detention Center since March. Bond for this latest set of charges has been set at $250,000.

4 more boys accuse Wicomico foster father of sex abuse

Mardela man was already charged with abusing three others

2:52 AM, Jul. 1, 2011 |

SALISBURY -- A Mardela Springs foster father charged in the sexual abuse of three male teens was indicted this week after four additional boys alleged he sexually abused them as well.

A grand jury indicted Stephen James Merritt, 39, on sex abuse of a minor, sex offense and child abuse charges on Monday.

In the most recent case, four additional victims were identified while police were investigating previous allegations of abuse against Merritt, according to the Wicomico County State's Attorney's Office.

The newest victims were between the ages of 12 and 13 at the time of the incidents, which occurred from 1998- 2007.

Merritt has been held at the Wicomico County Detention Center on $500,000 bond since March after two male foster teens reported he sexually abused them from May 1, 2008, through March 14 of this year while living in his home in the 24000 block of Main Street Extension, according to police. Investigators charged him with sex offense, assault and attempted sodomy.

Jamie Dykes, the Wicomico County assistant state's attorney prosecuting the case, requested the judge set bail for Merritt at $50,000 in the current case during a Circuit Court hearing Thursday.

Dykes also asked the judge to impose conditions on his bail similar o those in the other two case.

"I request (he have) no contact with the victims," Dykes said in court.

Judge W. Newton Jackson III set bail at $250,000, meaning Merritt would have to post the initial $500,000, plus the newly imposed $250,000 to get out of jail.

He was charged with sex offense, sex abuse of a minor and assault after allegedly making a "partial admission" to the allegations during an interview with investigators, according to court documents.

Merritt was again charged later the same month after a third male foster teen made similar allegations, according to charging documents. The male victim alleged the abuse started about a month after he went to live in Merritt's home in November 2003. He was 13 years old at the time.

Merritt is one of two Mardela Springs foster fathers charged in the sexual abuse of foster children in their care. His uncle, 51-year-old Tracy Grant Bayne, was also taken into police custody in March after an investigation by the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center. Three male foster children alleged the foster fathers, whose houses are located about 151 feet apart, abused them in unrelated incidents while living in the homes.

The victims were placed in the care and custody of Bayne and Merritt by MENTOR Maryland, a private foster care placement agency, according to the State's Attorney's Office.

One of the victims told police he did not stop Merritt or report the alleged abuse because he did not want to be removed from the home, according to investigators.

According to court documents, the alleged incidents occurred in the victim's bedroom inside the Merritt home, an old chicken coop that has now been converted to a wood shop and storage area, and inside a motel Merritt was remodeling, according to court documents.

The investigation is ongoing, and officials are asking anyone with further information on Bayne and Merritt, or other potential victims to contact the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center at 410-713-3497.