BEND, Ore. (AP) Were Dennis and Diane Nason building a criminal empire based on abused and disabled children they adopted from around the world, or devoting their lives to provide a home to children rejected even by their own parents?
A Deschutes County Circuit Court jury will spend the next four to six months hearing hundreds of witnesses to decide.
Known as the Celebration Family, the Nasons are accused of allowing three of those children to die from lack of medical attention, and abusing others. They are also charged with running a criminal enterprise that included blocking investigations by authorities, forging a doctor's signature on documents for adoptions, and siphoning off $ 10,000 in contributions.
They each face a 24-count indictment that includes charges of racketeering, manslaughter, criminal mistreatment, aggravated theft and forgery.
Today the jury was scheduled to view the 33-bedroom farmhouse outside the little town of Sisters where the television show "60 Minutes" came to profile how the Nasons cared for as many as 61 children at one time.
In a drab dormitory, small children old enough to walk and talk grip the rails of their cribs in frustrated attempts at locomotion, silently rocking back and forth. A playroom filled with toys, a paradise of imagination and exercise donated by foreigners, remains locked because the children's caretakers consider it too much trouble to supervise. The caretakers, women in white uniforms, sit a few yards away in the corridor, smoking and chatting.
In one crib, the oldest child, 6-year-old Gheorghe, his hair a tousle of dark curls and his eyes wide and brown, lies on his back, occasionallymanaging to pull himself up to peer out of his little prison. Until a few months ago, when an American volunteer visited, no one had bothered during Gheorghe's six years of institutional life to encourage him to sit or stand. Even the volunteer's interest has not enabled him to overcome his stunted development.
Morning Call, The (Allentown, PA)
Author: CHRISTOPHER ELSER, The Morning Call
A Romanian adoption official said yesterday that her country is going to make it harder for foreigners to illegally adopt children from the former Eastern bloc nation.
Dr. Tatiana Radulescu, chief foreign liaison with the United States for the Romanian Committee on Adoption, said the parliament would vote to close the loopholes that allowed Romanian lawyers to set up adoptions.
Under the new regulations, only recognized adoption agencies like Welcome House of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation in Dublin would be allowed to take children from the country, she said.
"Honestly, these private adoptions are very dangerous," Radulescu said over the noise of 30 young adopted children at the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. "(The parents) might encounter a not-so-correct lawyer and they can reach the situation where (birth) parents place conditions on adoptions. In all these cases, the child will suffer."
A former Tazewell County woman accused of shaking her 13-month-old adopted daughter to death in 1976 pleaded guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a murder indictment against Victoria Neal, which could have sent her to prison for a minimum of 14 years.
When she is sentenced Jan. 12, she could get probation or a maximum five-year prison sentence, according to Bill Ogolin, Tazewell County assistant state's attorney.
He said the murder charge was reduced because a murder conviction in a similar case was overturned on appeal recently in Peoria County.
The Neal investigation languished for many years but was reopened last fall when Victoria Neal, who was living in Irvine, Calif., made incriminating statements to a social worker there.
On Aug. 30, 1976, 2-year-old Danielle Neal, Victoria and her husband, Glen, were staying with friends who lived on Ossami Lake Court, which was unincorpoated at the time but is now part of Morton. Injuries to Danielle were inflicted at the home that day when only the mother and child were there, authorities said.
By JANE PERLEZ,
A British couple has been sentenced to two years and four months in prison after being convicted of buying an infant and trying to smuggle her out of the country.
Diplomats and foreign social workers had expected the couple, Bernadette and Adrian Mooney, would receive a lighter penalty.
But the Romanian authorities, who are trying to change the country's reputation as a place where lawyers and judges make deals with middlemen to sell children, apparently decided to send a message in the sentencing last week.
The Government has been reluctant in recent years to approve the adoption of Romanian children by foreigners. But Mr. and Mrs. Mooney are the first foreigners to be convicted under a new law introduced in 1991.
The couple, from a town in southeastern England, paid a middleman $6,000 for a five-month-old Gypsy baby, identified in court documents as Monica. The baby's unmarried 17-year-old parents said they received only $500 of the fee.
The Mooneys were stopped by Romanian police on July 6 at the Hungarian border. The baby was hidden in a box on the floor on the back seat.
Author: Barbara Demick; Philadelphia Inquirer
BUCHAREST, Romania - On July 6, a Romanian customs officer stationed at the border with Hungary peered into the back seat of a car with English plates.
What he saw set off a ferocious national debate over one of Romania's most tenacious problems: unwanted children.
On the floorboard of the car, behind the driver's seat, wrapped in a blanket in a cardboard box, lay a 5-month-old girl.
The British couple were arrested and charged with smuggling a human being and with violating Romanian adoption laws. On Friday, in a Bucharest courtroom, they were convicted and drew prison sentences of 28 months.
Adrian Mooney, 42, the manager of a brewery near London, and his wife, Bernadette, 40, a computer technician, readily admit that they paid $6,000 to a group of shady middlemen who purchased the baby from her poor, unmarried, teenage Gypsy parents.
In their defense, they say they were following the dictates of their hearts: trying to provide a loving home for a child who might otherwise have faced a Dickensian future, either languishing in an orphanage or begging on the streets of Bucharest.
BUCHAREST, Romania (Reuters) - A British couple is in shock after they were sentenced to two years and four months in jail by a Bucharest court yesterday for buying a baby and trying to smuggle her out of Romania in a box.
"They are not too good. They are in a state of shock," defense attorney Ioana Floca said after consulting her clients, Bernadette and Adrian Mooney.
The couple are the first foreigners prosecuted under tough new Romanian adoption laws aimed at stopping a wave of baby trafficking since the 1989 collapse of communism shed light on gruesome orphanages packed with thousands of children.
Ms. Floca has filed an appeal but has yet to get the written judgment explaining the harsher-than-expected sentence.
While the Mooneys could have gotten five years, they hoped for a suspended sentence. They remain free on bail pending an appeal hearing - no date has been set for another appearance.
SEATTLE TIMES NEWS SERVICESBy SEATTLE TIMES NEWS SERVICES
BUCHAREST, Romania - A British couple was found guilty and sentenced to two years and four months in prison today for buying and trying to smuggle a baby out of Romania, court officials said
The couple, Adrian and Bernadette Mooney, have 10 days in which to appeal the sentence imposed by a Bucharest court.
The court ordered that they be expelled from Romania once the sentence is served.
Three middlemen were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison and the parents will have to serve a year in prison once they turn 18 years old.
The Mooneys, arrested July 6 with a 5-month-old baby hidden in their car, were prosecuted under new adoption laws to stem baby trafficking in Romania that has increased since the 1989 overthrow of communism.
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Author: BYLINE: Associated Press
Dateline: ROCHESTER, Minn.
Tom O'Connor still keeps photos of the daughters he gave up after a divorce and denies he ever abused them.
O'Connor, of Rochester, was once married to Lois Cooke, who along with her daughters, Holly, 15, and Nicole, 14, were shot and killed by their husband and father, James Cooke, last weekend. Cooke then shot himself and died en route to the hospital.
Mower County authorities theorize Cooke shot his family and himself after finding out his wife had been told by the two girls that he had sexually abused them. In a rambling suicide note, Cooke denied the allegations.
Now, the girls' first adoptive father also is denying allegations of abuse.
When they were married in the early 1980s, O'Connor and his wife, Lois, adopted two girls from Korea; Holly was 6 1/2 months old and Nicole was 5 1/2 months old.
``They were little dolls,'' he told the Post-Bulletin of Rochester. He still loves them, he said.
Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities
Author: James Walsh; Staff Writer
Dateline: Racine, Minn.
On Saturday, Lois Cooke called the Mower County Sheriff's Department after her daughters, Holly and Nicole, told her that their adoptive father had sexually abused them.
By Sunday morning, Lois, 48, Holly, 15, and Nicole, 14, were dead - shot by James Cooke, 63, who then turned the gun on himself minutes before deputies arrived at the family's home. Mower County Sheriff Wayne Goodnature said deputies could smell gunpowder in the air when they found James Cooke dying from four self-inflicted gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester on Sunday night.
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Author: BYLINE: Lisa Grace Lednicer, Staff Writer
Dateline: RACINE, Minn.
Surrounded by 250 sobbing classmates, the Stewartville High School girls' volleyball team struggled Monday night to sing a song in memory of the girl who once had cheered them to victory.
They broke down as the song ended, stumbling to their seats in the church where students and teachers from Stewartville High had gathered to make sense of the deaths of cheerleader Nicole Cooke, 14, and her 15-year-old sister, Holly.
The girls and their mother, Lois, 48, were shot by their father, 63-year-old James Cooke late Saturday or early Sunday, authorities said. After writing a rambling suicide note, Cooke shot himself four times and died as he was being taken to the hospital.
Cooke apparently learned that his daughters told their mother he had sexually abused them. Lois Cooke contacted a Mower County sheriff's investigator Saturday and said she had been told during an argument with the girls that they had been abused by their father.
A Brick Township woman portrayed in court as a former child abuse victim was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison for beating to death her 3-year- old adopted son.
Kathleen Kelly Golebieski, 38, must serve 10 years before she would be eligible for parole under the terms of the sentence imposed by Superior Court Judge James N. Citta in Toms River.
In attempting to get a lesser sentence, public defender Robert Tarver told Citta of Mrs. Golebieski's troubled childhood, during which she suffered physical and emotional abuse and was sexually assaulted by two male relatives. But while noting it was "unrefuted" that Mrs. Golebieski was a child abuse victim, Citta said he did not believe her past should excuse her adult conduct.
Mrs. Golebieski called police to her home 2:42 p.m. July 30, 1993, reporting her son, Kyle, was unconscious. He died the next morning to Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune.
An autopsy report indicated Kyle died from blows to the head and had bruises in various stages of healing on his face, legs, back, arms and hands.
Author: The Associated Press
An outpouring of support has given Dan and Kathy Blackburn some peace again in their home of 28 adopted Haitian children.
Two of the teenage boys got jobs, and many people have offered financial help and counseling for the couple and their family.
Mrs. Blackburn said she already sees a change in her children.
"We have had several 'jam sessions' with other teens who have been in trouble," she said. "They have come into our home and talked to all the kids about staying out of trouble and what will happen if you don't."
The Blackburns, former missionaries, adopted the 17 boys and 11 girls after the children's parents died from disease and famine in Haiti. They brought them back to the United States five years ago.
Problems began to arise as the children grew older. Twenty-three are now teenagers.
Neighbors complained that the children harass people trying to drive down the road near the family's rural home.
Dennis and Diane Nason adopted scores of abused, disabled and unwanted children from around the world, filling a 33-bedroom farmhouse. Mother Teresa was among their admirers. But most of the children are gone now. The farmhouse was sold to pay lawyers. Jury selection began yesterday in the Nasons' trial on more than two dozen charges. Among other things, they are accused of letting three small children die neglected in their beds, one from starvation and two from a form of...
Author: Patti Weaver; World Correspondent
STILLWATER - After deliberating nine hours Tuesday, a Payne County jury convicted a Cushing woman of scalding her 4-year-old foster child. The jury fixed Anita June Franklin's penalty at one year in the county jail.
Associate District Judge Bob Murphy Jr. set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 28. Franklin is free on $5,000 bond until then.
Child abuse carries a punishment of up to life in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The jury began deliberating at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday. After about four hours, jurors sent out a note asking the definition of "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "willful." Murphy said, "I just told them they had all the instructions required by law."
During the four-day trial, Franklin, 43, was described by character witnesses as "good with kids" and "an understanding, very patient mother."
Franklin, a widow who formerly worked at First Methodist Church in Cushing as a custodian and relief day-care worker, testified she had five foster children through the Department of Human Services starting in 1992.