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Most recent articles added to the case archives

Many questions remain after boy is found chained up at Memphis home

Date: 2014-07-04

by Katie Rufener

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Department of Child Services is trying to figure out who six children belong to after they were taken from a home where a boy was found in restraints.

All the children were removed from a house in the 5600 block of Gaywinds Avenue Thursday. Neighbors tell WREG that’s where a young boy was found chained up.

DCS said, according to their records, none of the children taken from the house are foster kids.

WREG tried talking to a man who claimed to be the own the house. He wouldn’t share his name, but the home’s owners are listed as Melvin and Kenya Bloomingburg. They have lived there since 2006. The man refused to talk to a WREG reporter about the children or the accusations.

DCS said the house was a foster home for the last two years, but the family stopped fostering in February. They said there were never any problems during that time.

However Thursday night, the house was swarming with police after hearing a child was being restrained in a shed behind it.

Couple says they kept son locked in garage to protect other children

Date: 2014-06-30

By Kris Betts, Tina Shively and Eleanor Beck

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas -- The couple accused of kidnapping their own adopted son said they had to keep him locked up to protect their other children and community.

The couple is out on bond after it was lowered to $70,000 on Friday.

Jenifer Thyssen, 40, and her husband, 39-year-old Dane 'Andy' Thyssen, are accused of locking up their 22-year-old adopted son, Koystya Thyssen, in a garage apartment by himself for at least four years.

Attorneys representing the couple say they kept their son locked up because he had sexually assaulted children, including a relative, in the past.

Attorney Rip Collins said, "He [Koystya] has a history of sexually abusing children, not only in other countries, but in this neighborhood, in this community. And their concern was, they had him restrained because of their concern that other people would be harmed."

Friends say the couple adopted Koystya from Kazakhstan in 2004, when he was 11 years old.

Reports of girl’s abuse deemed ‘unsubstantiated’ by DCF

Date: 2014-06-28


When someone reported that the adoptive mother of a 14-year-old Sedgwick County girl had hit her with a bat, the Kansas Department for Children and Families found there was not “clear and convincing” evidence that abuse had occurred.

Social workers investigated the October 2012 report and determined the family did not need services from the state agency whose motto is to “protect children, promote healthy families and encourage personal responsibility.”

Prosecutors, however, thought a crime had occurred.

On June 9, a week after The Eagle first wrote about the girl’s case, they filed charges against the couple who fostered and later adopted the girl.

The father faces three counts of child abuse, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated endangerment of a child, one count of criminal restraint and one count of criminal damage to property. The mother faces the same charges except for criminal damage to property. The alleged incident with the bat was the basis for one of the aggravated battery charges. The Eagle is not naming the parents because doing so would identify the girl.

Couple kept adopted son locked in home, deputies say

Date: 2014-06-27

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas -- A Texas couple accused of keeping their adopted son locked up in a garage apartment for at least the past four years said they had to keep him captive to protect their own children.

Jenifer Thyssen, 40, and her husband, Dane Thyssen, 39, are accused of kidnapping. The couple was arrested earlier this week. They appeared in court Friday to argue that their $350,000 bond should be lowered.

Hays County sheriff's deputies say the couple told them they confined 22-year-old Koystya Thyssen in an apartment at their home in Dripping Springs "for the safety" of their other children, according to the arrest affidavit. Dripping Springs, a town of around 1,900 residents, is about 20 miles west of Austin.

Court documents don't indicate how many children were in the couple's care. In testimony Friday, Dane Thyssen indicated the couple had six children

Koystya was arrested after admitting he had burglarized a next door neighbor's house, according to a Hays County detective.

Koystya told detectives he used a screwdriver to break out of the garage apartment next door where he was kept locked inside.

Update on 1999 disappearance case of Kansas boy whose parents never reported him missing

Date: 2014-06-26

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said Thursday in a news conference that he has his doubts that Adam Herrman, who disappeared from Towanda, Kan., in 1999 when he was 11-years old is still alive.

Herrman’s adoptive parents never reported him missing.

Kelly HerzetBut on Thursday, Sheriff Herzet announced that the reward to help find Adam Herrman has increased to $100,000. The previous reward was already a substantial sum of $50,000, but Herzet said an anonymous donor has put forward more funds in hopes that the additional money will convince someone to come forward with information.

Adam Herrman disappeared in 1999 from the family’s Towanda home in southeast Kansas but wasn’t reported missing until 2008 when his older sister contacted authorities. He remains the subject of a missing person investigation.

His adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman, were convicted in 2011 for receiving state adoption subsidies after he went missing.

The National Center for Exploited and Missing Children says Adam had numerous scars on his abdomen, a scar on his left thigh and a birthmark on his lower back.

Dripping Springs couple accused of keeping son locked away

Date: 2014-06-26

By Patrick Tolbert and David Scott

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — A burglary investigation turned into a bizarre abduction investigation after the 22-year old suspect told police he escaped from his adopted parents, after being locked in their garage apartment for five years.

According to court documents, Jenifer Elise and Dane Andrew Thyssen admitted to locking their 22-year-old adopted son, Koystya Thyssen, in the apartment for his safety and the safety of their four younger children.

Investigators say the apartment’s windows were boarded up and that the door was locked from the outside. It had a toilet, microwave and refrigerator. Koystya told investigators he was kept locked away and was given a box of food once a week.

The story came out when Koystya was arrested in May on a charge of burglarizing a neighbor’s home. The homeowner’s stolen undergarments and magazines were found in Koystya’s home.

That’s when Koystya began telling detectives about his story.

Dripping Springs Couple Arrested for Holding Adopted Son Captive

Date: 2014-06-26

A Dripping Springs couple was arrested Thursday, accused of keeping their 22-year-old adopted son in a locked garage apartment for about four to five years with little access food or the outside world.

According to the arrest affidavit for Dane Thyssen, 39, the garage apartment was outfitted with a toilet, sink, refrigerator and microwave.

All windows were boarded up and a padlock secured the door from the outside, the son, Koystya Thyssen, told police.

A package of food was dropped off once a week, usually on Saturdays, and Koystya said that if he ran out, he would have to wait until the next Saturday.Koystya told police that he had lived in a garage apartment behind his adoptive parent’s house since the family moved onto the property four or five years ago.

He said he was locked in the apartment six days a week, only allowed to leave on Wednesday to shower and visit with his counselor. Police became aware of the situation when Koystya was arrested, suspected of burglarizing one of Thyssen’s neighbors along Meadow Ridge Drive.

He said he had stolen a screwdriver from his father’s workshop and used it to escape.

Jury won't hear about death of adopted son of Army major, wife during trial

Date: 2014-06-24


A federal jury will not hear about the death of an adopted child of an Army major and his wife who face trial on charges of inflicting “unimaginable cruelty” on their adopted children by allegedly withholding water, breaking bones and feeding them hot sauce, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden said she would not permit any evidence of John and Carolyn Jackson’s son’s death to be shared with the jury not only because it would be “unduly prejudicial” to the couple, but would confuse and mislead the jury.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office sought to tell the jury that the Jacksons’ abuse contributed to the May 2008 death of the boy. The boy’s cause of death was determined to be due to natural causes and the Jacksons were never implicated in his death. However, it was revealed in court that an impaneled grand jury is investigating the facts and circumstances of his death that could lead to new charges against the couple.

Lawyer of parents accused of abusing adopted daughter wants case closed to media

Date: 2014-06-20


The lawyer for parents accused of abusing their 14-year-old adopted daughter and keeping her in a windowless basement room asked Friday that Sedgwick County District Court Judge Patrick Walters close the case to the media.

Michael Cleary noted The Eagle had been reporting the case as part of its “ In Need of Care” series and said he would not try the case in public.

The Eagle reported about the case in May and earlier this month after Sedgwick County District Judge Tim Henderson gave the newspaper access to child-in-need-of-care petitions and hearings for two reasons: to be transparent about how the system works and to show the public the extent of child neglect and abuse. Reports of child abuse and neglect have risen by 25 percent in Sedgwick County in five years, to 12,366 in the fiscal year that ended in June 2013.

Walters told Cleary that he did not make the ruling to open the case to the media and advised “that anyone having a concern speak with the current presiding judge,” Judge Robb Rumsey.

Lincoln County woman pleads guilty to child abuse

Date: 2014-06-16

In the Lincoln County Circuit Court Monday, the mother of several adopted children pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse.One case involved one who disappeared for for more than seven hours, triggering a massive search.

The woman, Sharon Wilkerson, 55, of Lakota Acres, entered the pleas before Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer as part of a deal with prosecutors. In the exchange for the guilty pleas, she got a suspended imposition of a seven-year sentence and will serve 120 days of ‘shock time’

As part of the agreement, several other charges were not pursued by the prosecution.

The charges involved one of Wilkerson’s adopted daughters and a foster child, authorities said. According to court documents, Wilkerson beat the girls with various instruments. The abuse happened in 2010 and 2011.

The daughter, who was 10 in 2010, disappeared in October of that year for more than seven hours. When she returned, she told reporters that she left home to go for a walk with the family dog and he started chasing squirrels. She got lost, she said, and spent part of her time away taking a nap. She returned home on her own.

Lincoln County mom pleads guilty of beating adopted daughter, foster child

Date: 2014-06-16

By Susan Weich

LINCOLN COUNTY • The mother of several adopted children — including one who disappeared for more than seven hours in 2010, triggering a massive search — pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of child abuse.

Sharon Wilkerson, 55, of the first block of Lakota Acres, entered the plea before Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer as part of a deal with prosecutors. Wilkerson had faced 29 counts of child abuse. In exchange for pleading guilty to three, she received a suspended seven-year sentence and must serve 120 days of “shock time” in prison.

The charges involved one of Wilkerson’s adopted daughters and a foster child, authorities said. According to court documents, Wilkerson beat the girls with various instruments, including an arrow, a plumbing supply line, a curtain rod and hangers, in 2010 and 2011.

The daughter, who was 10 in 2010, disappeared that October for more than seven hours. She later said she took a walk with a family dog and became lost.

It is unclear how the abuse came to the attention of authorities.

Taylor County couple faces abuse charges

Date: 2014-06-13

In 2012, a couple was accused of keeping their teenaged daughter confined in a chicken coop.

This week, a grand jury indicted Diane and Samuel Franklin on dozens of counts, mostly first-degree child cruelty and false imprisonment.

The indictment says the couple kept the girl at times in the chicken coop, an outhouse or a storage container.

It says the girl often did not have adequate clothes or food.

The couple allegedly used an electric dog collar to shock her, and Diane Franklin faces a charge of aggravated assault for allegedly attacking her with a pistol.

And in a new charge in the case, Samuel Franklin also faces three counts of child molestation.

No trial date has been set.

Their attorney, Kevin Bradley of Macon, said Friday he was not prepared to comment on the charges.

In 2012, he released a statement saying the Franklins denied mistreating their daughter.

Indiana Court of Appeals overturn Larry Russell, Jr.’s plea agreement

Date: 2014-06-10

By Jon Swaner

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned the plea agreement of Larry Russell, Jr.

Russell and his wife, Nikki, were each arrested for abusing and neglecting their three adopted children. At the time, it was called one of the worst cases of child abuse local police has ever seen.

We want to make clear that Larry Russell is still in prison. What happened is that Russell exercised his right to appeal his sentence. What the Court of Appeals has to say about his plea agreement is likely not what Russell, or anyone else connected to this case, could have fathomed.

In the plea agreement, Russell pleaded guilty to 10 counts of neglect and criminal confinement.

The judge handed down three separate 8-year prison sentences, one for each child victimized in this case. That’s a total of 24 years. However, the judge and prosecutor felt that Indiana law forced them to cap Russell’s sentence to ten years.

10-year confinement sentence thrown out on appeal

Date: 2014-06-10

By Marissa Miller

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A western Indiana man who challenged his 10-year sentence for confining three adopted children in a padlocked bedroom now might face 56 years or more in prison after an appeals court threw out his plea agreement.

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled a plea agreement improperly capped the sentence given Larry Russell of Terre Haute at 10 years. The ruling said he can either be resentenced under his plea agreement to up to 56 years or he can have the deal thrown out, go to trial and face a possible maximum sentence of 68 years.

“He was unhappy he got the 10,” Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said Tuesday. “It’s very ironic.”

Russell, 40, pleaded guilty to neglect and criminal confinement charges last year under the plea agreement. He and his wife, Nikki, were arrested in November 2012 after one of the three children, then 17, escaped the home and sought help.

Sedgwick County parents who allegedly beat, locked girl in basement charged with abuse

Date: 2014-06-09


The parents of a 14-year-old Sedgwick County girl diagnosed by a doctor as a victim of child torture appeared in court Monday to face abuse charges.

The father faces three counts of child abuse, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated endangerment of a child, one count of criminal restraint and one count of criminal damage to property. The mother faces the same charges with the exception of criminal damage to property.

The Wichita Eagle has been following the case since April as part of its “In Need of Care” series examining child abuse and neglect in the community. The Eagle is not naming the parents because doing so would identify the girl and her three adoptive siblings, all of whom police placed in protective custody on March 28. Judge Tim Henderson gave The Eagle access to child-in-need-of-care petitions beginning in February with the understanding that The Eagle would not identify any children. The Eagle is following this case and others.

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