Case news

Most recent articles added to the case archives



Manitowoc County mom pleads not guilty

Date: 2014-10-16

MANITOWOC – A woman accused of child abuse for allegedly putting the child in a scalding bath pleaded not guilty.

Ruthann Gneiser waived a preliminary hearing Wednesday and pleaded not guilty, according to online court records.

No trial date was set. A plea hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11.

She’s accused of beating and scalding her five-year-old son, who has Down syndrome. According to court documents, she admitted to slapping the boy repeatedly on his back. She’s also accused of making the boy sit in a bathtub filled with scalding water. Gneiser said she didn’t realize the water was too hot.

A judge previously denied Gneiser’s request to see her children. The issue of supervised contact was raised again Wednesday. The judge will hear arguments on that at a hearing Tuesday

Couple Sentenced In Abuse Of Adopted Kids Case

Date: 2014-10-15

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A couple that pleaded no contest to child endangerment charges back in June, was sentenced Monday morning.
Kristen Barbour was sentenced to 6 to 12 months incarceration, but will be eligible for alternative housing.

Douglas Barbour was sentenced to five years of probation.

The adoptive parents of the Ethiopian children gave emotional testimony about the lasting effects of the abuse, including the starvation of the boy and the physical problems of the girl. However, they said they are now thriving.

Kristen Barbour told Judge Jeffrey Manning, “I have always sought to serve others. I am not a monster….I hope they will understand my intent and have it in their heart to forgive.”

According to the criminal complaint, inside the couple’s Franklin Park home, the children were abused and assaulted.

Investigators say the boy reported that he was once thrown to the ground, hitting his head, and punished by standing in a dark bathroom.
As part of the plea agreement, the Barbours agreed to terminate their parental rights.

Peoria family accused in abuse of 2 adopted sisters

Date: 2014-10-15

By Jesse A. Millard

A 24-year-old Peoria woman, whose parents are accused of abusing their 11- and 13-year-old adopted daughters, was arrested Monday in connection with the case, court documents say.

Kourtney Jorg faces two counts of child abuse and two counts of kidnapping, while her parents each face six counts of child abuse, records say.

The abuse reportedly occurred between January and May of this year.

Police say Kourtney Jorg had been living with her parents, Kimery and Johann Jorg, and her four adopted sisters, ages 13, 11, 8, and 7, at the time of the reported abuse. However, court records available on Tuesday did not detail her reported participation.

Kimery Jorg, 54, and Johann Jorg, 61, were arrested after Peoria police found that the eldest of the adopted girls was malnourished and two of them had many callouses on their hands and buttocks, records say.

Police said Kimery Jorg had previously contacted Southwest Behavioral Health, which treated the girls since their adoption five years ago, for help with the eldest, whom she described as "deviant" and "defiant."

Western Pa. Mother Accused of Abusing Daughter

Date: 2014-10-10

AP

A western Pennsylvania woman has been charged with simple assault and other offenses after police say she forced her daughter to eat cat litter and started to sew her mouth shut.

Police charged Rana L. Cooper, 46, this week for what they said was excessive punishment and neglect that also included forcing her to scrape the inside of a toilet and eat what was on her finger and not being allowed to eat or use the bathroom until she earned enough points cleaning the house.

Cooper also was charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of the girl she and her husband, Richard, adopted in 2008.

A phone message left at Cooper's home in Avella was not immediately returned, and district court officials said she did not have a lawyer on file.

The allegations of physical abuse include beatings with a hair brush, being spat on and being choked to the point of blacking out.

The matter came to light in May, as child welfare authorities in Washington County were investigating an alleged assault at the girl's school.

State settles lawsuit by abused Weller children

Date: 2014-10-10

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

The state has agreed to pay a $9.75 million settlement to five siblings who were abused for years by their parents, Jeffrey and Sandra Weller, in their Vancouver home.

The Wellers were sentenced in Clark County Superior Court in March 2013 to 20 years in prison for multiple crimes related to the abuse.

Two adopted twins, who were routinely imprisoned, beaten and starved by the Wellers, each received $3.1 million. The remaining $3.55 million of the settlement will be divided between the other three younger siblings, who are the Wellers’ biological children.

The lawsuit alleged that the state Department of Social and Health Services failed to adequately respond to dozens of complaints about the children’s welfare over an eight-year period or to investigate a history of Child Protective Services referrals involving Sandra Weller in California.

Mom Charged In Alleged Horrific Child Abuse Case

Date: 2014-10-09

By Mary Robb Jackson

CROSS CREEK TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – A Washington County woman is facing a list of charges related to the alleged disturbing abuse of her adopted daughter.

According to the criminal complaint, Rana L. Cooper, 46, was charged on Monday.

The arrest came after police were notified in May by Washington County Children and Youth Services.

Cooper is accused of forcing the child to eat used cat litter, attempting to gouge the girl’s eyes out and trying to sew her mouth shut.

The complaint also claims Cooper choked the child until she blacked out on two occasions.

She is also accused of striking the girl in the face with a belt buckle and causing hearing loss by shoving a Q-tip in her ear.

Cooper allegedly forced the child to run her finger along the rim of the toilet and eat what was on her finger.

The girl told police she was only allowed to eat one time per day, but only after the rest of the family had finished their meal.

However, the woman’s 24-year-old son Ronnie says the allegations aren’t true.

PD: Mother accused of punching, biting children in Holly Hill

Date: 2014-10-08

HOLY HILL, Fla. —A Holly Hill mother is accused of biting and punching her two children, who suffer from mental disorders, according to police.

Investigators were alerted of the alleged abuse by the victims’ pastor, according to the Holly Hill Police Department.

According to the arrest affidavit, the children told the pastor their adopted mother, 37-year-old Allison Fowler, abused them after the pastor noticed scratch and bite marks on one of the children.

Police said the children revealed several incidents in which Fowler caused them physical and emotional abuse by punching, choking and calling them names. When police interviewed the boy, he said Monday night Fowler was screaming at him so he locked himself in the bathroom. Police said when she finally got to him, she grabbed him by his throat and bit his pinky finger

They also said Fowler had beaten them so badly in the past that they each received black eyes.

Allison Fowler’s mother, Donna Fowler, told investigators she witnessed the abuse and was afraid to tell police because she was afraid her daughter would hurt her too.

Holly Hill PD: Foster Mother Bit & Hit Mentally Challenged Kids

Date: 2014-10-08

Holly Hill, FL – A Holly Hill mother is held without bond after police say she bit, hit and verbally abused her 2 adopted kids, each of whom suffers from mental disorders.

37-year-old Allison Fowler was arrested around 5:30pm Tuesday at her Mobile Avenue home on a felony count of child abuse after a pastor at the United Brethren In Christ Church called law enforcement earlier that day to report her.

According to Fowler’s arrest report, that pastor told the Holly Hill Police Department that Fowler’s adopted kids – a boy and girl whose ages and other identifying information was redacted from the report – are students at their school and he found scratch and bite marks on the left side of the boy’s neck and on his right pinky finger when he came to school on Tuesday morning.

When questioned, the boy told HHPD about several incidents where Fowler was verbally and physically abusive towards him and his sister, both of whom have lived with Fowler since they were very young.

DA opposing reduced sentence for abusive mom

Date: 2014-10-07

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The district attorney is arguing against leniency for the wife of a former state prosecutor who's been sentenced to six to 12 months in alternative housing for endangering here two adopted Ethiopian children.

Thirty-two-year-old Kristen Barbour wants to serve the sentence on house arrest, but Allegheny County prosecutors oppose that.

Barbour and her 35-year-old husband Douglas, were sentenced last month after pleading no contest to child endangerment counts in June. Douglas Barbour, who's on probation, resigned from the state attorney general's office after the couple was charged in October 2012.

That's when their 6-year-old adopted son was being malnourished and an 18-month-old girl had multiple head fractures in various stages of healing.

Kristen Barbour claims she'll be unable to care for the couple's two biological children, but prosecutors say her husband and in-laws can help while she's incarcerated.

Should a Mother Lose her Child because of One Mistake?

Date: 2014-10-07

By FauxClaud

Close your eyes and imagine this:

Imagine that your beloved father dies suddenly and in your grief, you make a mistake. You drink too much and sleep with an old friend.

Imagine that you become pregnant form this and, understandable, your significant other of 7 years is upset, but you really want this baby. You feel it is the last piece of your father coming though and you want to name this baby after him.

Imagine that right before your due date, your guy tells you that you cannot bring this new baby into your shared home. That even though he has happily helped you parent your five other kids ( that are not his) he won't take on this baby; all you can imagine is that your other kids will lose the life they have, so you do the unthinkable.
In a panic, you call an adoption agency.

Mom accused of fooling doctors into unneeded surgeries is expected to bail out of jail Monday

Date: 2014-10-06

By Aimee Green

Attorneys for a 44-year-old mother of eight who is accused of fooling her doctors into needlessly operating on some of her children have persuaded a judge to lower her bail to $5,000.

That means Katherine Parker -- who has been jailed for more than six months pending trial -- could walk out of Multnomah County jail as early as Monday after posting 10 percent of her bail, or $500.

Her bail had once been set at $1.2 million, before Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch agreed to lower it to about $400,000 in May. Friday, he agreed to again lower it to $5,000.

Defense attorneys Lisa Ludwig and Tiffany Harris convinced Bloch that he should drastically slash Parker’s bail, arguing that she does not pose a flight risk. They also addressed one of the reasons Bloch wouldn’t reduce Parker’s bail further at a May hearing: A deputy who would supervise her outside of jail while she awaits trial wouldn’t be able to monitor if she were living almost 250 miles away at her Grants Pass home.

Douglas Wirth Found Not Guilty Of Abusing Adopted Son

Date: 2014-09-29

By David Owens

ARTFORD — A Hartford Superior Court judge Monday found a former Glastonbury man not guilty of physically and sexually abusing one of the sons he and his former husband adopted through the state Department of Children and Families..

Judge Julia D. Dewey said the evidence against Douglas Wirth was simply not believable.

"Not guilty of all charges," the judge said after summarizing her findings.

The trial was based on the charges brought by one son, who is now 19. Wirth, 46, and his former husband, George Harasz, 51, were accused of sexually and physically abusing him over several years. He was one of nine boys they adopted through the state Department of Children and Families.

Harasz is scheduled to go to trial in late October.

The accuser's long history of lying — a therapist described him as a pathological liar — undermined the state's charges.

Adoption, Special Needs, Child Abuse, Evangelicals. Yet Another Case

Date: 2014-09-29

by Frank Ligtvoet

Ruthann Gneiser, a 31 year-old woman living just outside Manitowoc (WI), a few miles from Lake Michigan, fundraised in 2011 for the adoption of her second child, a toddler with Down syndrome from the Ukraine who would be named Lucas. A friend, Michelle Zoromski, lauded her on her blog for her original fundraise method: she etched glassware and sold that (since deleted). Her first child, a child with Down syndrome as well, was adopted as a baby in 2009 domestically and went by the name Micah. Both kids are 5 years old.

The Gneisers seem in rural Mid-Western terms a regular couple. Husband Mark is a salesman in the agribusiness, Ruthann stay-at-home mom. She and Mark are members of a Yahoo support group for parents with children with Down Syndrome, they walk the annual Down Awareness Walks in Neenah (WI) and are devout evangelical Christians. On the website of the organization through which they found Lucas, CHASK, they wrote: "Further than special needs, all children are special and precious, created for God's glory."
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All might have seen well from the outside. And then USA Today reported last Thursday, September 25:

Woman charged with beating and scalding her 5-year-old adoptive son with Down syndrome

Date: 2014-09-26

By Charlene Adams

A Wisconsin mother of two allegedly beat her five-year-old son who has Down syndrome so badly that the boy defecated in his pants, she then made the boy sit in scalding hot bath water, authorities say.

Ruthann Gneiser, 31, told investigators that she was 'as angry as I've ever been.'

Medical Center of Aurora staff notified authorities after Gneiser brought the child in on Monday with 'heavy bruising' on his back and scald burns on more than 50 percent of his body, according to ABC 2.

The married, stay-at-home mom reportedly got angry with her adoptive son and began slapping him repeatedly on the back until he defecated in his pants.

ABC 2 reports that Gneiser made her son stand in a cold shower until he 'got himself cleaned up.'

She then made the boy sit in hot water for up to 1 1/2 minutes only noticing that the water was very hot when she reached in and nearly burned herself, Gneiser told authorities.

The child was transferred to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin where he underwent emergency surgery, according to ABC 2.

UPDATE: Mother Burns Special Needs Child

Date: 2014-09-26

MANITOWOC, Wisc. (WFRV) A criminal charge of "physical abuse of a child intentionally causing great bodily harm" has been filed against a Manitowoc mom.

Manitowoc County District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre filed the charge against Ruthann Gneiser in Manitowoc County Court yesterday. If Gneiser is found guilty, she faces a fine up to $100,000 and/or a prison sentence up to 40 years.

Gneiser is accused of beating and scalding her 5-year-old son who has Downs Syndrome.

According to the criminal complaint, the Milwaukee Children's Hospital pediatrician who is treating the boy for his injuries says he has severe bruising and the amount of bruises are "too numerous to count". The doctor further states that a large bruise is on the top of the boy's skull. The pediatrician believes the bruises are from physical abuse.

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