Former CPS worker sentenced in ID theft case

Friday, August 26, 2011

 HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A former employee with Children's Protective Services has been sentenced to prison for her part in an identity theft scheme.

Andrea Daniels, 45, was convicted of the charges of fraudulent use and possession of identifiable information. Prosecutors say from November 2009 through April 2010, Daniels stole private information from the applications of dozens of foster and adoptive family applications, then sold the information from at least 70 applicants to an accomplice.

That male accomplice, Phillip Moore, then used the information to get fake drivers' licenses and open credit card accounts.
Daniels was sentenced Friday afternoon to 30 years in prison.

Lawsuit charges DSHS failed to protect foster kids

Lawsuit charges DSHS failed to protect foster kids
Kirsten Joyce Q13 FOX News reporter
9:52 p.m. PDT, August 23, 2011
For years, four Tacoma children were tortured and terrorized sexually, physically and emotionally.
Their foster father confessed and was convicted of the crimes, but now a lawsuit points the finger at the state.
The law firm representing the four victims is Messina Bulzomi Christensen. The victims are now between the ages of 19 and 20.
Attorney Jeremy Johnston said this was not an isolated incident, but that it occurred over a period of years and his firm filed the lawsuit in the hope that changes are made at the state level to prevent this from ever happening again.
"As a parent, if you think about the worst things that can happen to your kids, some of those things probably happened in that home," Johnston said.
The home where the victims lived, Johnston calls the "house of horrors." The Tacoma home where his four clients abused happened at the hands of Jose Miranda. He and his wife, Juanita, were foster parents of more than a dozen different children between 1997 and 2005.
"This home should have never received a license," Johnston said.
Tuesday, Johnston's four clients filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court. The lawsuit seeks to sue the state, which they cite as responsible for licensing the foster home. It charges that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) ignored years of complaints from social workers, teachers, neighbors — even the children themselves.
"These complaints, while the state claims they investigated them, they obviously didn't do a very good job because all this harm was occurring to these children," Johnston said.
He questions how the couple could have obtained a foster care license.
In fact, Juanita Miranda already had a criminal history that included:
• Her biological children were removed from her home in California by the state because of her illicit drug use and neglect,
• The couple was on welfare and disability when applying to become foster parents in Washington in 1997.
"There are lots of things that I think an ordinary person would say, why would you ever give this home, the ability to care for foster kids?” Johnston asked.
Apparently the state continued renewing their license.
Court documents reveal that when the couple reapplied for a license in 2000, it was noted that Juanita had four drug-related charges between 1989-1990.
The DSHS employee stated, "Holy cow, wonder why this was never caught."
Another employee discovered that the original licenser at the time of Jose and Juanita's initial application did not complete their criminal background inquiry.
But the couple's foster license wasn't revoked until five years later, when in 2005 Jose was admitted to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. He thought he was on his death bed and confessed to his crimes.
“He asked the nurse for a priest. She said, 'Sorry there isn't one on duty now, and so he confessed to the nurse that he had done unspeakable things to children who had passed through his home," Johnston said.
Miranda was convicted of rape and molestation of a child. He died in prison, serving a term of 131 months to life, in October 2009.
His wife, Juanita died from a drug overdose in September 2006. DSHS has declined to comment on this lawsuit, or any of its policies and policy changes over the years.

Former Boys' Haven employee indicted on sodomy, sexual abuse charges

Posted on August 24, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - A former Boys’ Haven employee has now been indicted on charges of sodomy and sexual abuse.

Police say Lyle Kenobbie admitted to engaging in sexual conduct with a juvenile foster child in his custody and care.

The indictment reads the alleged incidents happened between February and August of 2011.
Boys’ Haven officials accepted Kenobbie's resignation earlier this month.

They say he had been a long-time employee serving as a food services supervisor.

Illinois foster child's death ruled homicide

Illinois foster child's death ruled homicide

11:00 a.m. CDT, August 24, 2011


A coroner's jury in Peoria County has ruled that the May death of a 4-year-old girl who had been living in a foster home was a homicide.

Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll said Tuesday that Kianna Rudesill was living in a foster home in Cullom in rural eastern Illinois on May 3 when she suffered numerous injuries to her head, back, arms and legs. The girl was taken to a Peoria hospital where she died the next day.

The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington ( ) reported that a pathologist found that Kianna couldn't have suffered such a range of injuries on her own.

Family members such as Kianna's mother, Tawnee Jones, want to know why no one has been arrested.

Livingston County Sheriff's Detective Doug Bunting said an investigation is ongoing.


Information from: The Pantagraph,

Foster children placed in 'house of horrors' sue state

TACOMA, Wash. -- Four foster children want the state to pay for allowing them to live in a home where they were sexually and physically abused for years.

"It's truly a house of horrors," said Jeremy Johnston, an attorney representing the foster children of Jose and Juanita Miranda.

Jose pleaded guilty several years ago to child rape, molestation and physical abuse of the three young boys and two young girls who came to live with them at their Tacoma home from 1997 to 2003.

Johnston described the man as "a foster parent forcing kids to engage in just graphic sexual acts with him, and forcing the kids to engage with each other in graphic sexual acts.:

The newly-filed suit claims Juanita knew about the sex and did nothing to stop it, and she physically and mentally abused the foster kids. One girl told investigators the children were often locked in the basement and forced to wear diapers.

"She was forced to eat food that had expired. And on one occasion when she vomited from it, she was forced to eat her own vomit from the food," Johnston said.

The foster parents are now gone. Jose died in prison two years ago of heart failure. Juanita died of a drug overdose in 2006.

The suit claims Juanita's extensive criminal record in Washington and California should have prevented them from ever getting a state foster care license. And when reports of abuse surfaced, the suit says DSHS reported them as unfounded.

"Obviously if people were doing their job, they would have removed these kids much sooner or never would have licensed this home," Johnston said.

The state Department of Social and Health Services refused to comment on the 87-page lawsuit.

The suit currently only involves four of the children. The youngest child, who is still a minor, is not a party in the suit.

The Mirandas' own daughter may join the suit later this year, alleging she, too, was abused by her own parents, Johnston said.

Foster mom hopes abuse case won't cause more red tape

There is new information linked to a high profile abuse case involving two foster parents charged with child endangering.

Lee Ann and Christopher Henry's son is also facing charges, accused of beating up a sibling. The teen faced a judge today in juvenile court. He's locked up at the Lucas County jail. His next court day is August 30.

In the meantime, a different foster family is speaking out about their concerns over this case.

Wendy Hoodlebrink is a foster parent through Lucas County. She says she's cared for numerous foster children with great success.

"We take a lot of kids out of the city, and they come out here, and it's a total different life for them," she says. "A lot of the kids haven't been in cars, they haven't seen cows, they haven't seen tractors"

She also has nine adopted children. The Hoodlebrinks have been fostering children for 21 years

Wendy says she was upset to hear about the alleged neglect by Lee Ann and Christopher Henry.

The Henrys, who have fostered many children, are charged with child endangering. The charges are not in connection with any foster children. They're accused of neglecting their handicapped adopted daughter

"I don't think somebody should be able to adopt a handicapped child if your house is not handicapped accessible. Those things I feel the agency should have helped them get that in place, to make that easier. For a handicapped child, that's your life, that's your whole life, what you chose to do for that child, and you need to do the best that you can," Wendy says. "If you can't do it, then you need to call out and get some help."

Sources tell 13abc that the Henrys' home was not handicap accessible

The Hoodlebrinks fear this case could create more red tape for current and potential foster parents

"I think there will be more on-the-spot checks coming in, and I think it's very difficult. Each foster home has their own foster case worker that surveys their home and does their home," Wendy says. "You do develop a bond with that person, and just like you would with anybody and I can see that becoming a problem between a foster parent and foster worker."

Ex-police officer's chief accuser now says nothing sexual happened

Ex-police officer's chief accuser now says nothing sexual happened

Preliminary hearing resumes Tuesday for Maurice Martinez, a former Oklahoma City police sergeant, who is accused in a 37-count criminal charge of sexually abusing four teenage boys while they were in his care.
The testimony came at a preliminary hearing for Maurice A. Martinez, 45, in Oklahoma County District Court. Testimony resumes Tuesday morning.
Martinez is accused in a 37-count criminal charge of sexually abusing four teenage boys while they were in his care. He is being held in Oklahoma County jail. Most of the counts involve the adopted son who now says nothing sexual ever happened.
“Did he do that?” defense attorney David Slane asked, going through the sexual allegations in the charge one at a time.
“Absolutely not,” the witness said repeatedly. “No sir.”
Martinez came under investigation after the adopted son, now 17, told women at his church in January he'd been molested for about a year. He later told police the same thing but then recanted in a video and in a written statement.
The boy took a bus to Utah in March. He was found there April 14 and was returned to Oklahoma. He now lives with a sister. He admitted Monday that Martinez got him the bus ticket.
He said he made up the sexual abuse allegations because he was upset and wanted out of Martinez's home. He said he had been beaten by another of the officer's adopted sons and feared he would be hurt again. He said he was upset Martinez had not disciplined his attacker who gave him a black eye.
He said he slept with Martinez in the officer's bed because other boys in the house picked on him. He said he thought that sleeping arrangement would make his accusations more believable.
He called Martinez “my dad,” and said he now wanted to set things right.
Prosecutor Gayland Gieger said the boy told him before testifying Monday that if he told the truth about what happened it would destroy his family. The boy denied saying that.
Martinez had been a foster parent for 11 years and “has had numerous boys under his care during those years,” police reported. The Department of Human Services has said Martinez cared for about 60 foster children.
He was charged in April. He resigned as a police officer last month.
First witness
The first witness Monday was one of the former officer's foster sons. The foster son, now 22, told the judge Martinez sexually abused him one time years ago. He testified he saw Martinez have inappropriate sexual contact with other boys in the officer's home.
The foster son also testified he told police Martinez sent his initial accuser to Utah. He said he traveled to Utah with Martinez to visit the boy in April. He said he worried the officer planned to hurt the boy. He quoted Martinez as saying, “I want to see him float.”
The foster son also said Martinez asked him to take the blame for pornography found on the officer's home computer and cellphone. Prosecutors say 25,000 images of gay pornography were found on the computer and 500 pictures of naked males were on the cellphone.
Defense attorneys say Martinez is not the one who downloaded those images on to the computer or phone.
Special Judge Larry Jones is hearing testimony to decide if the evidence is sufficient for a trial. A decision is expected Tuesday. Many of the counts are likely to be thrown out.

Once honored Toledo foster parents now facing criminal charges

by Kevin Kistner
Posted: 08.18.2011 at 6:38 PM
TOLEDO -- A Toledo couple honored more than a decade ago as Family of the Year is now facing criminal charges. Christopher and Lee Ann Henry were honored in 1999 for their role as foster parents.
Now the couple is charged with physically abusing and failing to protect their 17 year old adoptive daughter with cerebal palsy. The indictment claims the abuse goes as far back as 2005.
Police were notified of the alleged abuse when the officials at the teen's school noticed unexplained bruises. That's when the teen told them she had been verbally abused and not well taken care of.
All foster children have been removed from their home.

A foster child with cerebral palsy

A foster child with cerebral palsy was removed from her parent's home. Now, her adoptive parents are charged with child endangering. A Lucas County grand jury handed down the indictment Wednesday afternoon.

A foster parent who trains other parents on how to be good parents is accused of neglecting her handicapped daughter. Lucas County Children Services touted one of their foster parents, Lee Anne Henry as one of the best.

In 1999, the Henrys were foster parents of the year. But now, Mrs. Henry and her husband, Christopher, are accused of abusing their adoptive daughter who has cerebral palsy.

In May, a complaint was filed with the Children Services and police. The executive director for Lucas County Children Services, Dean Sparks, says investigators went to the Henry's home in the 3000 block of Brock and found it in deplorable conditions.

Sources tell 13abc that the 17 year old girl was forced to sleep by the back door, if she wet herself she was allegedly beat, and she was forced to eat her meals on the floor.

Sparks says Washington Local school administrators even expressed concern about the young handicapped girl's living conditions. Sparks says the handicapped teen didn't have a wheelchair that fit her.

Sources tell 13abc there have been nine complaints reported to Children Services about the Henrys. Sparks says those complaints were not backed up. The Henrys voluntarily gave up their 17 year old daughter while the case is open. They have 6 other adopted children.

Sparks admits he's concerned his employees may have dropped the ball in this case. He says his staff needs additional training. Sparks says as of last week, the Henrys turned in their foster parenting license and withdrew from the program.

Jeffersontown man charged with sexual abuse of foster son

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police say a 55-year-old employee of Boys' Haven walked into police headquarters and confessed to ongoing sexual abuse of his foster child.
Lyle "Craig" Kenobbie from Jeffersontown is charged with four counts of sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse. He was arrested late Tuesday.
LMPD Officer Carey Klain said Kenobbie turned himself in after that agency and child protective services opened an investigation based on the 17 year old foster son's complaint.
"There were detectives that had gone to Mr. Kenobbie's home to just verify if there were any children in the home," Klain said.
Klain said the boy was not Kenobbie's first foster child.
"We are unaware of any other victims," she said. "Certainly the detectives will be following up with those individuals that have been in the care previously."
In an arrest report, police say Kenobbie stated that he both fondled and engaged in oral and anal intercourse with the child and had the child do the same to him.
The arrest report lists Kenobbie's employer as Boys' Haven, a non-profit organization in Louisville that works with abused, neglected or abandoned children.
Jeff Hadley, the CEO of Boys and Girls Haven, released the following statement:
"We are saddened by the allegations against Mr. Kenobbie, and we accepted his resignation last night. For more than 60 years, Boys and Girls Haven has been deeply committed to protecting thousands of vulnerable children. We absolutely do not tolerate any behavior, alleged or substantiated, that compromises that trust. Mr. Kenobbie had been a long-time employee, serving as a food services supervisor. Three months ago, he became a foster parent after completing a battery of background checks. Our thoughts and concerns are with the young person involved. We will continue to work cooperatively with state child-welfare officials and law-enforcement personnel in this matter."

Advocacy Group Slams Oklahoma's DHS For Abuse Rate

Posted: Aug 12, 2011 9:43 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The child advocacy group suing the state's child welfare system claims the abuse rate of Oklahoma foster children is four times higher than the federal standard.
DHS says it's simply not true and they're trying to get the federal class action lawsuit thrown out.
In a blur of briefs, DHS attorneys and the child advocacy group Children's Rights have been going at each other.
DHS says the agency is improving on its own and it doesn't need a federal judge to intervene.
Children's Rights lawyers say, if a federal judge doesn't step in, the next ten years of DHS will be like the last and likely worst.
DHS says far fewer children are coming through the halls of shelters. The agency claims reforms have dramatically reduced the foster population from more than 12,000 back in 2007 to about 8,200 now.
It's just some of the proof DHS attorneys point to when they say this federal class action lawsuit isn't necessary.
Children's Rights, which represents Oklahoma foster children, say what you really need to examine is the care those children are given. They claim the abuse of Oklahoma foster children is inexcusably high.
Court documents reveal in 2010, 103 children were abused while in the state's care. It's only a fraction of the state's foster kids, but the rate is almost 2 and a half times the federal standard.
And Children's Rights say those numbers aren't even right, because DHS doesn't report when its own staff workers abuse foster children.
Court records say that would add 80 abused children, raising the rate to 1.4 percent, which is four times the federal standard.
DHS argues the vast majority of foster kids are never abused and they say more children are being returned safely to their families, with only 6 percent returning to the system. That's twice as good as the national average.
DHS attorneys also argue Children's Rights are looking at a sample. and they're looking at real numbers tracked with a federally approved computer system.

Children's Rights says the DHS's own IT specialist admits the computer system is flawed.

This case is supposed to go to trial next February.

Wife knew of firefighter's sex abuse, police say

by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News
Posted on August 10, 2011 at 6:47 PM
Updated Thursday, Aug 11 at 12:28 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- Police believe Scott Hamrick sexually abused at least four of his foster children and worry there may be more victims, possibly friends.
Hamrick knew police were investigating him and killed himself rather than face the accusations against him. His wife, Drew Ann Hamrick is not charged with sex abuse, but police believe she knew what was going on.
Pierce County firefighter Lt. Scott Hamrick's home in Eatonville is not only where he took his own life, but also where he allegedly stole the innocence of children he took into his care as a foster parent.
Pierce County Sheriff's Department had been investigating Hamrick after neighbors and family members told investigators they believed he'd been molesting his foster children.
Court documents show it was Hamrick's son who called police, after his mother Drew Anne admitted Hamrick had been molesting four of his young foster daughters. Today, Drew Anne Hamrick was charged for her role in the abuse. Prosecutors alleged she "repeatedly locked the victim in a room with a pad lock on the outside of the door and denied her food for days. The victim forced to sleep on a blanket on a concrete floor." Court documents also allege she went without food for 3 to 4 days at a time, and was forced to relieve herself in a bucket in her room.
Police allege Drew Anne Hamrick was jealous and angry. The victim says Drew Anne made her promise not to tell and asked her "why do you hate your dad? It's not like he raped you" and "he just touched you." Scott Hamrick was allegedly crying and told her that he would kill himself.
Hamrick was a veteran firefighter who spent the last 27 years working for Central Pierce Fire and Rescue in Puyallup. He resigned suddenly on June 23. One week later he committed suicide. Sheriff's deputies say he left a note saying he didn't want to go to prison.
Drew Anne Hamrick is charged with unlawful imprisonment, witness tampering, and criminal mistreatment. And they're still investigating if anyone else knew about the abuse and if there might be more victims. Drew Anne Hamrick's first court appearance could happen Thursday.

Foster parent convicted of sexual battery


A man is behind bars after being accused of molesting his foster children.

Officials say 47-year-old David Faulkner was found guilty of two counts of sexual battery of a juvenile, three counts of child molestation and two counts of directing a juvenile to commit the felony crime of sexual battery of a juvenile.

Faulkner will be sentenced on July 28th and faces a maximum penalty on all charges of two life sentences plus 85 years in prison.

Federal judge says RI foster care suit may proceed

Federal judge says RI foster care suit may proceed
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A lawsuit alleging that foster children in Rhode Island are routinely neglected and at risk of harm while in state custody may go forward, a federal judge has ruled.
The class-action lawsuit filed by the national watchdog group Children's Rights says the state's foster care system is plagued by widespread, systemic problems that leave children's needs unmet and put youth at risk of emotional and physical harm.
The state had sought to have the suit thrown out, saying the federal court has no jurisdiction to hear the case and that the suit is moot because several of the 10 children initially named as plaintiffs have been adopted.
In a ruling Wednesday, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi dismissed the complaints of five original plaintiffs because they are no longer in the custody of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. But Lisi allowed the case to proceed with the two remaining plaintiffs, who are still in the state's care.
Children's Rights had itself earlier withdrawn the claims of three plaintiffs when they were adopted.
Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children's Rights, called the ruling a victory for Rhode Island's vulnerable children.
"The state has tried to stall us for as long as they could," she said. "The children have continued to suffer. We think it's a turning point in the case.
"For a long time, Rhode Island has had serious problems with the system, and it has never really addressed them."
Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, said her office is "reviewing the matter."
The suit was first filed by Children's Rights and then-Rhode Island Child Advocate Jametta Alston in 2007. It was dismissed in 2009, then reinstated last year by a federal appeals court.
The group says some 2,000 children are in the state foster care system.
On July 1, Children's Rights filed a supplemental complaint seeking to add five new plaintiffs to the case.
In the four years since the suit was filed, that complaint says, children in the state's custody have continued to be at risk every day. It says the Department of Children, Youth and Family subjects them to "maltreatment in foster care at one of the highest rates in the country, frequent moves, inappropriately restrictive placements, a lack of services to meet their needs, and the likelihood of growing up without a permanent, loving family."
Among those the group wants to add as plaintiffs are a 14-year-old girl whom DCYF allegedly allowed to remain in her mother's care despite reports that she and her sisters had been physically and sexually abused, and a 15-year-old girl also allegedly permitted to remain with her parents after caseworkers learned of physical abuse and severe neglect in the home.
The supplemental complaint alleges that the rate of abuse in foster care in Rhode Island is nearly four times the national standard

Child dies after being sent from foster care to her parents, renewing questions about L.A. County's troubled children's services agency

By Garrett Therolf, Times Staff Writer

June 6, 2011

The two-page letter landed in the judge's chambers at the Los Angeles County Children's Court last fall, registering "grave concern" for the well-being of 17-month-old Vyctorya Sandoval.

Linda Kontis, co-founder of a foster family agency that contracted with the county to provide care to the girl, complained that the court system hadn't properly considered the risks of returning the saucer-eyed toddler known as Tori to her long-troubled biological parents.

Months after the letter was written, Tori was dead. Healing bruises covered her body, according to a court document that children's services officials filed. A rib was fractured. Blood tests suggested she died thirsty and hungry. For six hours, doctors tried to save her after she was rushed to an emergency room.

No charges have been filed, but police and county social workers say the parents are suspects in the investigation of Tori's death on April 24. She had turned 2 the month before.

Her case has sent fresh shock waves through the county's child protection bureaucracy, still struggling to implement reforms after more than 70 maltreatment deaths over the last three years of children who had been under the system's supervision.

Investigators are awaiting a final autopsy report, and details of Tori's life and health have not been disclosed. But Kontis' letter has called into question whether the court system and the Department of Children and Family Services did all they could to safeguard the girl. Kontis declined to comment.

Kontis' letter was one of two warnings officials received about Tori's welfare in the months before she died, according to sources familiar with the case. A friend of Tori's former foster parents, Jennifer Nichols, said the couple phoned in a report to the children services department after hearing from the girl's relatives that Tori's condition was worsening.

Document: Read Linda Kontis' complete letter

Elise Esparza, a friend of Tori's relatives, said she barely recognized the once-boisterous girl when she saw her the month before she died. "She was very pale looking and gaunt in the face. I said. 'Something is wrong.'" After Tori's death, Esparza said she was present when the girl's mother described Tori pulling out her own hair and pinching herself.

Despite concerns among those who knew Tori, the court and the county left the girl with her parents, who lived in a Pomona apartment before their daughter died. Social worker visits were ordered, but interviews and records indicate that during the period she was with her parents, Tori's weight dropped from the 50th percentile to below the fifth percentile for children her age.

Jackie Contreras, the county's interim children's services director, said one department worker has been placed on desk duty because of possible lapses in monitoring Tori. Confidentiality rules bar her from discussing the case, she said.

County officials have labored to correct recurring, systemic problems in child protective services. Last year, frustrated county supervisors complained of slow progress before the former children's services director, Trish Ploehn, was ousted.

The county has touted its success in cutting foster care rolls by nearly two-thirds since 1997, to fewer than 20,000 children. Nearly nine of 10 children returned to their parents do not have a substantiated maltreatment incident in the first year. But critics point out that the rate of unsuccessful reunifications has nearly doubled as the county has allowed increasingly troubled families to reunify.

And three years ago a state Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care reported that court hearings for foster children average just 10 to 15 minutes, providing children no meaningful voice. The panel's recommendations to reduce court caseloads have been stalled by budget problems.

Kontis wrote that hasty reunification efforts and a poorly conducted court hearing in September potentially put Tori at risk.

"I know that reunification is primary and always work toward that goal. However, there are cases where common sense must prevail and history is relevant," said Kontis' letter, which was written shortly after the September hearing. A copy was obtained by The Times.

Michael Nash, the presiding judge in Los Angeles Juvenile Court who supervises the commissioner who handled Tori's case, said he received and answered Kontis' letter. But the correspondence is confidential because of state rules, he said.

Tori was removed from her parents after her birth and joined eight older siblings in foster care, according to the letter sent by Kontis, who had access to extensive files on Tori. The family has had 11 referrals to child protective services for alleged domestic violence, child abuse and other issues, according to other sources with access to the family's files.

Jennifer Dalhover, Tori's 35-year-old mother, could not be reached for comment. An attorney representing Joseph Sandoval, 20, Tori's father, who was arrested on a probation charge after the girl's death, did not respond to messages.

The couple had a tempestuous relationship that included allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse committed by Dalholver against Sandoval when he was a minor, according to Kontis' letter to the court. More recently, Dalhover obtained a restraining order against Sandoval, citing domestic violence, Kontis wrote.

Several months before winning custody of Tori, Dalhover and Sandoval dropped out of contact with county social workers and discontinued court-mandated programs meant to prepare them to reunify with the girl, according to Kontis' account.
In June, they resurfaced in a Pasadena homeless shelter with a newborn child and restarted their efforts to regain their daughter, Kontis wrote. Seventy-seven days later, with their parenting programs still unfinished, they appeared at the September court hearing asking to reunite with Tori, according to Kontis' letter.

"I … have been in many children's courtrooms over the last 20 years, and I have never seen any conducted in the manner in which I witnessed that day," Kontis wrote to the court.

The hearing was closed to the public and the transcript is sealed, as is customary in juvenile cases. State legislation that would open such hearings has been placed on hold until next year, partly because of opposition from the union representing many county social workers. Kontis was among those who attended Tori's hearing.

According to Kontis' letter, the court commissioner who approved the reunification, Marilyn Mackel, "dominated her courtroom with intimidation and anger, to the point that the attorneys present barely spoke above a whisper with simple answers," Kontis wrote.

The commissioner appeared distracted when one of Tori's siblings spoke, and "reams of concerns and pages of documentation" were not acknowledged, Kontis wrote. Tori's court-appointed attorney, Robert Vasquez, told Kontis that "the history of the family does not matter, the goal is to reunify," she wrote.

Mackel did not respond to an email message or calls to her chambers and the court press office or an interview request left at her home. Leslie Starr Heimov, Vasquez's supervisor at the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, which represented Tori, said that she was stunned by Kontis' letter and that it mischaracterized Vasquez's analysis of the case. She said Vasquez had discussed Tori's case with Kontis for 30 minutes in the hallway outside the court hearing and had explained why he felt she would be returning to a safe home.

"At the time she was sent home, was there evidence to suggest that she was being hurt by her parents or that she would not be safe in their care?" Heimov asked. "If not, then the law says that she should be returned."

Heimov echoed staffers at the Edelman Children's Court in Monterey Park, where Tori's case was heard, who said Mackel and Vasquez have reputations for being conscientious. Mackel is said to delve deeply into children's histories for her cases, and Vasquez frequently arrives shortly after dawn to prepare his arguments.

After she was returned to her parents, Tori remained under the oversight of the Department of Children and Family Services until she died and should have received frequent visits from county social workers.

Internal affairs investigators at the children's service agency are looking into whether those mandated assessments were conducted and, if they were, what social workers observed. Meanwhile, Dalhover, according to interviews with county officials and friends of the family, recently became pregnant with her 11th child.

Former NY foster child gets back swindled $400k

Published July 19, 2011

TAMPA, Fla. – A former New York foster child swindled out of more than $400,000 in insurance money by his foster parents recovered the money Tuesday, posing for photos alongside an oversized check from Florida authorities as if he had won the lottery.

For Markus Min Ho Kim, now 25 and working as a stage hand in New York City, some of the money may help further his education, possibly in music. The restitution comes more than a decade after authorities say his father killed his mother, landing Kim as a teenager in the New York state foster care system.

On Tuesday Kim came to Florida to collect a check from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the full amount of $409,662.94, a rare case of a victim of major fraud receiving full restitution.

Although he describes his years with his foster parents as "vacant" and said he never regarded them as family, he agreed to be adopted by them after he turned 18 and accepted their assistance managing the money instead of New York's child welfare officials.

"They actually convinced me they would be better able to help me than the agency," Kim said Tuesday. "I was distraught, to say the least, and I needed their advice. It was probably one of my biggest mistakes. I wanted to trust them more than anything."

Authorities said the large payment from his mother's life insurance policy was taken from Kim years ago by the foster parents in New York, adding they later moved to central Florida and used the money to buy up properties. Several agencies worked for two years to recover it from the couple, now serving time in prison for the fraud.

"If I had to put it into words, I would say it's a new lease on life," said the lean, articulate Kim, who emigrated with his parents from South Korea when he was about 5 years old. "I plan to use it to be best person I can be and live my life to the fullest potential."

Kim ended up in foster care as a young teen. According to news accounts, his father fatally stabbed his mother at their Queens home as he watched.

He wouldn't talk about his family Tuesday, but had plenty to say about Radhames Antonio Oropeza and wife Asia, foster parents who took him in several months after his mother's death. He suspects the Oropezas knew that he would have access to the insurance money when he turned 18.

Authorities say they Oropezas cleaned out his insurance money and eventually moved to rural Polk County, Fla., east of Tampa, investing the money and buying a number of properties without his permission. Kim sought the help of Fort Lauderdale attorney and foster child advocate Howard Talenfeld, who alerted the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement also got involved.

Last year, Radhames Oropeza, 54, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His wife pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. Both are serving three-year prison sentences and are scheduled for release in December 2013.

Authorities said the couple turned over some cash assets, with the rest coming from the sale of the seized properties.

As far as the investigating authorities were concerned, it was as good as winning the lottery for Kim.

"This does not happen. We do not see recoveries such as this for people who are victims of fraud," said David Waller, special agent supervisor at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"It really is something that is very gratifying for us," said Robert O'Neill, the U.S. attorney for Florida's middle district.

Young boy’s death at hands of foster parents led to change

Marcus Fiesel was killed five years ago, prompting overhaul of child welfare system.

By Michael D. Pitman, Staff Writer 2:20 AM Sunday, August 7, 2011

It’s been five years since the death of 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel at the hands of his foster parents that captured the attention of the region, state and nation, sent two people to prison for the rest of their lives and led to a child welfare system overhaul.

Marcus, the Middletown boy with an impish grin, would have turned 8 in June. Instead of marking another birthday, he will be remembered for his horrific death.

The developmentally disabled boy was bound in a blanket wrapped with duct tape and placed in a playpen inside an upstairs closet while Liz and David Carroll Jr., live-in girlfriend Amy Baker, their children and foster children, and even the family dog, traveled to an August family reunion in Kentucky during the hottest days of the year.

“I’d like to think the laws that have changed in his memory have been beneficial in the fact that we haven’t had any other child have the same fate that he did,” said Gary Cates, a former state senator from West Chester Twp. “If that’s his legacy, that no other child’s been harmed, then that’s a tremendous legacy that Marcus left other children.”

Both Liz and David Carroll declined interview requests from prison.

Marcus’ death during the weekend of Aug. 4-6, 2006, in the closet of the Carrolls’ Union Twp. home in Clermont County placed a giant spotlight on some gaping holes in the child welfare system and led private foster placement agency, the former Lifeway for Youth, from operating in the state.

While his death was the breaking point to prompt reform in Ohio’s foster care and children services system, other children died while under the charge of Butler County Children Services: Tiffany Hubbard, 3, of Hamilton in 1986; Randi Fuller, 2, of Hamilton, in 2000; Christopher Long, 2, of Middletown, in 2001; Courtney Centers, 3, of Middletown in 2002; Jesus Rodriquez, 7 months, of Hamilton in 2003; and Justin Johnson, 13 months, of Middletown in 2004.

Marcus’ hurdles

Born on June 24, 2003, Marcus had many obstacles from the start. He was born with a developmental disability — though not specifically diagnosed, he had “global delays” and needed 24-hour care and attention.

Marcus slept on a foam mat at the home of his biological mother, Donna Trevino, and he and his siblings were not closely watched or cared for. Butler County Children Services became involved with the family in Aug. 9, 2004.

When Marcus was found wandering the streets on April 22, 2006, almost being hit by a car — roughly four months after he accidentally fell out of a second-story window — caseworkers removed Trevino’s three children from her home, where reports showed there was feces on the carpet and wall of the flea-infested home. This was the third time her children had been taken from her care.

The day Marcus went missing

The public story of Marcus’ disappearance began on Aug. 15, 2006, after Liz Carroll collapsed from an apparent heart condition at an Anderson Twp. park in Hamilton County. When medics responded, she told them she brought four children to the park, but only three were present. This sparked a massive three-day search by hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement and search and rescue teams.

“I still have nightmares about that little guy,” said Jann Heffner, then director of Butler County Children Services. “You don’t get into this business unless you care about the care and physical well being of a child.”

She and some of her staff, including Marcus’ caseworker Joe Beumer went out immediately to search for the child.

Beumer was in “shock and disbelief” but said the story of his disappearance “wasn’t adding up.” He doubted Marcus would have run off — even though that would be something he would do, when his foster mother collapsed. “Any child that experiences something like that I think their natural instinct would be to stay with that person that’s hurt,” he said, “even if they couldn’t do anything they would just sit there.”

Worry quickly turned into horror at the end of August 2006 when the Carrolls were charged with murder.

The case

Not many things hang on the walls in Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters’ office, but a drawing of Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Jim Borgman of Marcus holding hands with God walking toward heaven has a special place.

“To this day it just chills me that someone could do that to a little baby. They are where they belong and they will have to answer to God,” Deters said.

Deters had prosecuted the case before it was moved over to Clermont County since Marcus died in the Carrolls’ home. He said he thinks about the 3-year-old boy “all the time.”

“The inhumanity of how they treated him, it boggles my mind when you’ve got children,” he said.

The story of Marcus’ disappearance unraveled at Liz Carroll’s televised news conference, which Deters watched from his office. “It was rehearsed and came off very untruthful,” he said.

He immediately brought in Liz Carroll and Amy Baker (who now goes by Amy Ramsey) before a county grand jury. He talked to Baker first, and with her attorney present, said “if she was not truthful, she’ll go to prison.” After consulting with her attorney — who Deters said was ghostly pale after the attorney-client conversation — Baker admitted what happened to Marcus.

“It was disgusting,” Deters said of her testimony.

She revealed Marcus had been dead for days before the disappearance hoax at the park, and that she helped David Carroll burn the boy’s body in rural Brown County and throw the rest of his remains in the Ohio River.

Following a jury trial in February 2007, Liz Carroll was convicted of charges including murder and sentenced to 54 years to life in prison; her husband later was sentenced to 16 years to life as part of a plea deal.

The aftermath

An Ohio Department of Job and Family Services investigation pointed blame at Lifeway for Youth, the New Carlisle, Ohio-based foster care provider that placed Marcus with the Carrolls.

For reasons that include and extend beyond Marcus’ case, ODJFS later pulled Lifeway’s operational certificate, a decision upheld by a Franklin County judge.

Although investigations determined that Butler County Children Services did nothing wrong, Heffner was moved into a consulting role and then fired by the county commissioners. The Butler County Children Services Board — initially formed in the wake of 3-year-old Tiffany Hubbard’s abuse and death in 1986 at the hands of her biological father — was disbanded.

The Rev. Johnny Wade Sloan, chairman of the 11-member board, didn’t agree or see the reason to disband the board.

“(The Carrolls) promised 24-hour adult supervision and there was no reason for us not to place (the kids) when (Lifeway was) telling us, as a licensed agency, they had an ideal place,” he said.

But Sloan and Heffner said the decisions to disband the board and fire Heffner were political moves and not a result of Marcus’ death. “Marcus Fiesel became the focal point for that happening because that would have happened regardless,” Sloan said. Former Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox resigned his elected seat and later was appointment Children Services director. He has since resigned and is headed to federal prison in an unrelated case.

System changes

The death of Marcus Fiesel prompted change the Ohio child welfare system, though the need for retooling the system had been evident for years, said Gary Cates, a former state senator from West Chester Twp.

In 2007, Cates introduced legislation in the Ohio Senate and Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, introduced legislation in the Statehouse.

“I hope and pray that it never happens again,” Combs said of Marcus’ death.

Implementing the legislation requirements cost about $15 million in both the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years, said ODJFS spokeswoman Angela Terez. That investment included about $5.2 million in federal funds in each of the years, she said. After Marcus’ death, the Criminal Justice Information System, formed in Montgomery County, expanded to now include 14 Ohio counties. Had CJIS been in effect in Butler County, Marcus could have been pulled from the Carroll home following a June 2006 domestic violence arrest of David Carroll Jr., though the charge was later dismissed.

“Any foster parent in our network — even foster parents where we don’t have children in their homes — if they are pulled over even for a speeding ticket we’re made aware of it instantly,” said Jeff Centers, current children services director. “Anything that might raise a red flag, we’ll know about it immediately.”

Centers said the county pays $46,000 a year for the CJIS licensing records checks and that the agency also has a $95,000 annual contract with the county sheriff’s office to have a deputy supervise the investigations unit and provide services such as security and finding runaways.

3rd foster abuse lawsuit filed

More than $356 million sought from man, placement agency

Jul 16, 2011 |

SALISBURY -- A third juvenile who alleges he was sexually abused has filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against a Mardela Springs former foster father and a private foster care placement agency in Circuit Court this week.

The plaintiff is the most recent alleged victim to sue Stephen James Merritt, 39, and the private foster care company, MENTOR Maryland, that placed him in Merritt's home.

Two lawsuits, which seek more than $356 million in damages, alleging similar allegations of sex abuse at the hand of Merritt and negligence on behalf of MENTOR were filed earlier this month.

The civil complaints were filed four months after Merritt, 39, was criminally charged and indicted in the sexual abuse of seven adolescent boys inside his home located on his family's compound, Last Chance Farm, for more than a decade.

Authorities have identified seven male juveniles who they believe were sexually abused by Merritt, who was their foster father at the time.

Circuit Court criminal jury trials for Merritt have been scheduled for August, September and October.

In the most recent lawsuit, the plaintiff is asking for $225 million in damages in the most recent lawsuit filed; $210 million from Merritt and $15 million from MENTOR.

The 13-page complaint, filed in Wicomico County Circuit Court on Tuesday by Michael Belsky of Schlachman, Belsky & Winer PA on behalf of a plaintiff identified as "John Doe No. 3, " alleges the victim was sexually abused by Merritt from 2003 to January 2005.

The complaint also alleges MENTOR Maryland received a "notice of alarming grievances" against Merritt while the alleged victim was in his care.

Belsky also filed a motion asking the court to protect the identity of the victim and allow him to continued to be identified as "John Doe" or seal parts of the record that reveal his name or other means of identification.

Similar requests asking the courts to withhold the identities of the victims were filed with the previous lawsuits filed against MENTOR and Merritt.

Merritt was taken into police custody and held at the Wicomico County Detention Center since March after police interviews with two alleged victims. A third victim was identified later that month. Four more victims were identified by late June.

The juveniles were removed from Merritt's home immediately after the allegations were made, and Merritt's home was placed on an "inactive status," according to Kerry Ahern-Brown, MENTOR Maryland executive director. Shortly after the home was closed, it was no longer certified to receive future juvenile placements, she added.

MENTOR Maryland is part of the MENTOR Network, a national organization that offers programs and services to individuals with mental disabilities, at-risk children and their families and individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries.

Merritt and his wife were both licensed foster care parents through MENTOR Maryland, according to Ahern-Brown, who said married couples are jointly licensed and are required to undergo a screening process mandated by state regulations and the organization's policies.


Matt Baker's daughter testifies in custody hearing

Posted: Jul 13, 2011 9:48 PM EDT<em class="wnDate">Wednesday, July 13, 2011 9:48 PM EST</em>Updated: Jul 13, 2011 10:55 PM EDT<em class="wnDate">Wednesday, July 13, 2011 10:55 PM EST</em>
Matt Baker's older daughter says she wants to live with Barbara and Oscar Baker in Kerrville, where she is happy and has a good life.
She testified Wednesday in the hearing over who should have custody of the children of the former central Texas pastor convicted of killing his wife.
His former in-laws, Jim and Linda Dulin, are in court trying to gain custody of their granddaughters.
First on Wednesday the attorneys for the Bakers called Oscar to testify.
He said Kari Baker's death was horrible, and that she was like a daughter to them.
During cross-examination, Baker told the Dulins lawyer he didn't know why former foster children would testify he sexually abused them, except that maybe they wanted a free trip down to Kerrville.
Following Oscar a number of friends of the Dulin's from Kerrville testified, including a school counselor, that they are good people, and loving parents.
A former foster boy said there was a good environment inside the home, and that no abuse ever took place.
Then the Baker's attorneys called Dr. Theron Hawkins, a urologist and Baker family friend.
He not only testified that the Bakers were good people who ran a good foster home, but also that earlier claims from former foster child Millie Von Steenburg that he sexually abused her were not true.
Then, during cross examination, the Dulin's lawyer asked if Hawkins opinion as a urologist is that you would have to see a man's genitals to know if he was circumcised or not.
The question was in reference to Von Steenburg's claim that Oscar raped her, and that she remembered he was not circumcised.
Hawkins said that was the only way to know if someone was or wasn't circumcised, unless the person made a really good guess.
A lawyer for the Bakers then asked if it was common for men born inside the home in the 1930's to be uncircumcised.
Hawkins said it was common, though he was born in the 1930's inside the home, and he insinuated that he is circumcised, so both were possible, giving more credibility to Von Steenburg's testimony of sexual abuse.
Then former case workers that worked in the Bakers foster home and a former nurse who served as the relief foster parent when the Bakers wanted a weekend off testified that they knew of no abuse in the home, and that the children seemed happy, and well taken care of.
However they did admit that while unlikely, abuse could have taken place without them knowing about it.
Following that, the Baker's former pediatrician testified that he didn't treat the Baker's biological or foster children very often, and that when he did it was for nothing out of the ordinary, including any signs of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
During cross examination though he did admit that if a girl had been inappropriately touched or kissed there would be no evidence for him to uncover.
Next the Baker's attorneys called Oscar and Barbara's daughter, Matt's sister, Stacie Segars to testify.
She and Matt did not receive special treatment growing up, according to Stacie, and no abuse or even harsh punishment took place in the home.
During cross examination though she did tell the Dulin's lawyer she hasn't written, called, or visited Matt since he went to prison, though Stacie said there was no specific reason why, and nothing bad happened between the two of them.
At this point, more than a dozen teenagers, mainly girls, filed into the courtroom, and filled more than three rows.
Friends of Matt Baker's older daughter, they came to show support, and with them, about a dozen other people also came to watch, some County workers in the courthouse, other's, just curious citizens.
After a short recess, the attorney representing the interest of Matt Baker's daughters called his older daughter to testify.
With blond hair just below her shoulders, and a braid on top, her eyes were sunken, and her face very solemn.
Immediately after questioning began, she started to become emotional.
She told the jury that after moving to Kerrville, they would visit the Dulin's once a month.
She never referred to them as Grammy or Papa, only Jim and Linda, while she did call the Baker's her grandparents.
After about six months, she became worried about their visits and told a counselor about Linda, "I don't feel we have a very good relationship with each other. We don't get along. We tend to argue about small stuff and we don't have a loving relationship."
She said the tension with their maternal grandparents really built shortly after Matt Baker's conviction in January 2010.
During their next visit to Waco in February 2010, she recorded on her phone a conversation between the Dulin's and the two girls, and they played that conversation in court.
During the recess while they set up the CD, she went over to Barbara, and was talking and laughing with her.
While she stood just inches behind her father, she didn't appear to say anything to him.
On the recording, the conversation starts off peacefully, with Linda telling the girls, "It is time to come back to each other. It is time to grab all the love you can get because it's all there is. We don't want anger"
Then she told the girls something that has also been the Dulin's main point in court, "If nothing else matters this weekend, you need to know that all we want...from you is to be part of your lives and make you whole and healthy again."
That's why they told the jury they wanted custody of the girls now, to make them whole and healthy.
However on the recording that's where the tension starts, with her older granddaughter telling Linda, "I don't want to move to Waco. If you really want me to be happy then leave us in Kerrville."
Linda responded though by telling the girls, "There are things that are missing and you may not realize it right now...One of the things you're missing is that your mom loves you, your mom has never left you, and it's time to remember your mom and her family and to take back the joy in your life."
Then she asks her older granddaughter if she can give her a hug, and she tells Linda no.
To that Linda asks, "Where did it come from that you were taught to hate us? And how healthy is that?"
Her older granddaughter replies, "You took my dad away less than three weeks ago and you expect me to love you. It doesn't work that way."
The conversation continues with Linda saying, "It's because your dad took your mom," and her older granddaughter replying, "Y'all had no freaking evidence. It was all made up. I'm not stupid."
The Dulin's try to tell their granddaughters that someday they'll see the evidence, but they need to see a trained counselor to be able to understand what happened.
When the recording ended the granddaughter was again crying, and said hearing Linda talk about making the girls "whole and healthy" makes her angry.
She talked about different counseling she's gone through, including a group program that the two girls and Matt went through, and she said she's grieved for her Mom's death.
Crying again, she said she has a lot of memories about her mom, and nobody has tried to take them away.
The girls watch home videos of Kari, and she keeps a picture of her in her Bible case and a memory box under her bed with items that belonged to Kari.
Then the conversation moved to Matt's guilt or innocence.
She believes her dad is innocent, saying about Kari's death, "I don't believe my Dad killed her, and I don't believe that she meant to kill herself."
However she said because of everything bad she's heard or read about the Dulin's saying about Matt, "As of right now I don't want monthly visitations with them. Maybe a few days in the summer and during winter break but not once a month."
She talked about how hurtful it was for the girls to go to the Dulin's celebration after Matt was convicted, and see people partying and drinking alcohol.
She said when the Dulin's take trips, they never invite the girls, and they don't call or write except cards on their birthdays and Christmas.
She then talked about how full her life is in Kerrville, how she has a lot of friends, and is very involved with school and church.
She's afraid if the girls are forced to move back to Waco, everyone there will know her back story, and judge her immediately.
In Kerrville she already has established friends who knew her before they knew her story.
She also talked briefly about Jim, noticing a change in him, saying, "He's gotten more stressed out and he tends to snap easier."
While she's closest with Barbara, about Oscar she said, "He's smart and funny and he cares about [the girls]."
During cross examination, the Dulin's attorney presented a story she wrote before her mother's death where she called the Dulin's home her favorite place.
Then he presented a note she wrote following her mothers death where she said, "I hate Linda and Jim."
When the lawyer pressed about what lead to it, she said, "They took my dad away from me."
During this testimony Jim and Linda sat close, with Jim's arm around her shoulder.
The hearing is expected to wrap up Thursday in the 198th District Court in the Kerr County Courthouse, though it could run into Friday if the jury needs more time.