Case news

Most recent articles added to the case archives



Mixup in Russian Adoption Case

Date: 1997-06-17

Mixup in Russian Adoption Case

A misunderstanding about a court order delayed a hearing yesterday for an Arizona couple accused of beating their newly adopted Russian children on a flight from Moscow to New York.

The couple, Richard and Karen Thorne, had arrived at Family Court in Queens optimistic that depositions from passengers on the plane who said the couple had done nothing wrong would help them regain custody of their 4-year-old girls and allow them finally to go home to Phoenix.

The couple have been separated from the girls since May 28, when other passengers on their flight said the Thornes had beaten, choked and assaulted the unruly children.

The Thornes were charged with assault, harassment and endangering the welfare of the children. The girls were put in foster care.

But then the misunderstanding arose over a court order from Arizona, which Judge Joseph Lauria of Family Court interpreted as meaning that Arizona was in effect suspending the adoptions.

FOSTER FATHER IS ORDERED TO PRISON IN DEATH OF GIRL

Date: 1997-06-17

A registered nurse accused of killing his foster daughter while using a controversial "holding therapy" was ordered to prison Friday.

Donald Lee Tibbets, 37, says he will be forever tormented by what happened in July 1995 to his foster daughter, Krystal Tibbets.The 3-year-old died a day after her father used the technique designed to provoke a child into a rage and draw out repressed sources of anger. Tibbets had learned the method from the Family & Attachment Center, a company that teaches therapeutic interventions for mentally distressed children.

"He was steered into this. He was taught this would cure the ills of his daughter and the ills of the world," said defense attorney Ed Brass.

Prosecutors said Tibbets admitted he had performed the holding technique by placing the weight of his body and fist on the abdomen and chest of the child. He told police Krystal vomited during the therapy.

PHYSICIAN MAKES A DEAL TO PRACTICE AGAIN

Date: 1997-06-17

LICENSE LOST AFTER CHILD'S DEATH FROM PILLS

STEVEN GOLDSMITH
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A doctor who lost his license after a 6-year-old patient's death from prescription pills has made a deal to practice medicine again.

Dr. Daniel Stowens, a Seattle pediatric neurologist, said he soon could be treating many of his former patients. The death of one of Stowens' young patients last year from anti-depressants prompted state controls on the medicating of children in foster care.

News of the doctor's impending return turned a luncheon Saturday with about 50 of his admirers - mostly parents of his patients - into a celebration.

Ruth Mertz of Kennewick said the loss of Stowens' services had made it tough to care for her 14-year-old son, who suffers from several disorders.

"I love my kid," Mertz said, "and I'm not going to let the bureaucrats take away the one physician that's helped him. We haven't had Stowens for a while, and my son is starting to lose it."

Parents to Fight Charges Of Abusing Children on Jet

Date: 1997-06-12

Parents to Fight Charges Of Abusing Children on Jet

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

A lawyer for the Arizona couple who were accused two weeks ago of abusing the two children they had just adopted in Russia on the flight home denied yesterday that they mistreated the girls and rejected an offer to plead to a lesser charge to settle the case.

''There will be no plea of guilty of any kind,'' the lawyer, Harold Levy, told reporters outside criminal court in Queens. ''They're not guilty of anything.''

The couple, Richard and Karen Thorne, were returning from Moscow May 28 with the two 4-year old girls when a Delta flight attendant and several passengers observed them screaming at the children, striking them ''forcefully and repeatedly over a period of 10 hours'' and threatening to send them back to Russia, according to the police report. At least seven passengers missed their connecting flights to make sure the Thornes were arrested upon arrival. The couple were charged with assault, harassment and endangering the welfare of the children.

Couple Held In Abuse Of 2 Children During Flight

Date: 1997-05-30

Couple Held In Abuse Of 2 Children During Flight

By NORIMITSU ONISHI

A Phoenix couple who were returning to the United States after adopting two 4-year-old Russian girls were arrested at Kennedy International Airport for physically and verbally abusing the children during the 10-hour flight from Moscow, the authorities said yesterday.

Richard Thorne, 48, and his wife, Karen, 42, were seen striking the girls in the chest, face and head with such force and regularity that the children screamed and cried almost constantly during the flight, officials said. According to a criminal complaint, Mr. Thorne was heard shouting ''shut up'' and threatening that they would be sent back to Russia.

''Several passengers and flight attendants tried to intervene and were rebuffed by the defendants,'' said Mary de Bourbon, a District Attorney's office spokeswoman in Queens.

Deaths SVENNINGSEN, JOHN A.

Date: 1997-05-29

Deaths SVENNINGSEN, JOHN A.

Published: May 29, 1997

SVENNINGSEN-John A. John A. Svenningsen, President and Chairman of the Board of Amscan Holdings, Inc. with headquarters in Elmsford, N.Y. died on May 28, 1997. Taking a small business from the family garage in 1960, he built a world-wide enterprise of manufacuturing and distributing party goods. In 1996, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Enterpreneur of the Year Institute. He is survived by this wife, Christine and his children, Christina, Jon, Elisabeth, Melissa, Emily and Sara and his sister, Fanny Warren.

Little Boy Lost

Date: 1997-05-22

Little Boy Lost

Accused murderer Renee Polreis pulls out all the stops in a pre-trial hearing.

By Karen Bowers
Published: May 22, 1997

Renee Polreis sat on the floor, her back against the sofa, as her son David clambered onto the couch behind her. It was about their eighth trip to the office of Greeley psychologist Byron Norton, who'd begun seeing the pair after Polreis complained that the two-year-old boy, whom she'd adopted from a Russian orphanage, wasn't bonding with her. Suddenly, without a word, David rolled forward, dropping from the sofa onto his mother's lap.

"I believe he was saying, 'I'm beginning to trust you,'" Norton testified in a Greeley District Court hearing last week. "[David] then turned around and sat on her lap. He embraced her face and kissed her in a circle all the way around her face. When that happened, Mrs. Polreis got a little rigid, and that concerned me."

MURDER MOTIVE OFTEN INSURANCE

Date: 1997-05-18

Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)
Author: Carmela Thomas
Staff Writer

Last week wasn't the first time an alleged murder-for-insurance-money plot involved a Fort Gordon soldier.

Twenty-five years ago, Fort Gordon Pvt. Kenneth Barnes, 19, from Ohio, was shot to death, and it was made to look like an accident involving someone else.

For years people believed the buried body was that of Augusta Quarry worker John Owens. Nellie Owens collected on her husband's life insurance, and the couple enjoyed spending it for years before getting caught, officials said.

In the past week, 31-year-old Gina Lynn Spann was accused of luring four teen-agers into killing her husband for insurance money.

Mrs. Spann, her 18-year-old, live-in boyfriend Larry Wayne Kelley, his friend Christopher Bargeron, 16, Matthew Clark Piazzi, 16, and Gerald Horne, 18, are all in jail charged in connection with the shooting death of Mrs. Spann's husband, Fort Gordon Staff Sgt. Kevin Leroy Spann, 35.

PARENTS SCALDED COUSIN TO DEATH, BOY TELLS JUDGE ON TAPE

Date: 1997-05-12

With a new haircut and sneakers, the 8-year-old boy climbed up onto the large witness chair and described the night his cousin died. He told the judge how he peered through a fist-sized hole where the doorknob used to be and saw his 3 1/2 -year-old cousin with his father's filthy undershirt hanging off her shoulders. He saw his parents draw her bath. Clouds of vapor rose from the tub. Then, the boy said softly, he watched his parents submerge her in the scalding water.....

STATE RESTRICTS USE OF DRUGS FOR FOSTER KIDS

Date: 1997-05-11

AP/The Vancouver Columbian

SEATTLE (AP) -- Stimulants, sedatives and anti-depressants no longer will be given to foster children without permission from a biological parent or a judge, state officials have decided.

The proposed rule, scheduled to take effect July 1 and similar to regulations in 24 other states, was adopted partly because of the death of 6-year-old Domico Presnell from amitriptyline poisoning last year. The anti-depressant, better known as Elavil, had been prescribed because the boy was hyperactive and had trouble sleeping.

"Given the risk and uncertainty with psychotropic medications, we're going to make them nonroutine," said Rosie Oreskovich, head of the Children's Administration in the state Department of Social and Health Services.

The boy's biological mother, a recovering drug addict who was working to regain custody, did not know her son was taking amitriptyline. She has sued the state and Dr. Daniel Stowens, who prescribed the anti-depressant. Officials said it would have been inappropriate for the state agency or social workers to second-guess a doctor's decision to prescribe medication.

'Right' decision on boy's U.S. citizenship backfires

Date: 1997-05-11

Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities - May 11, 1997

`Right' decision on boy's U.S. citizenship backfires, Deportation looms for Colombian adoptee as church, family protest immigration law

Sometimes, when the struggle seems overwhelming, Julie Carrigan remembers that beautiful day a dozen years ago when the world seemed filled with joy and hope. Oh, what a day of celebration it was. The Carrigans' new son, a street child from Bogota, Colombia, was coming home to his new family, his new country. Allen and Julie Carrigan and their two biological daughters, Robin and Kelly, were at the airport to greet an 8-year-old boy they named Adam. They were...

<excerpt>

FOSTER CARE DRUG TREATMENT IS LIMITED

Date: 1997-05-09

PARENT OR JUDGE MUST APPROVE PSYCHOTROPICS

STEVEN GOLDSMITH

Powerful - and potentially dangerous - psychotropic drugs will no longer be part of the "routine" medical treatment of the state's foster children.

State officials announced yesterday that a foster child cannot be given prescription stimulants, sedatives or anti-depressants without the permission of a biological parent or a judge.

"Given the risk and uncertainty with psychotropic medications, we're going to make them non-routine," said Rosie Oreskovich, who heads the Children's Administration of the state Department of Social and Health Services.

The new rules, which will be reviewed and could be changed before becoming final July 1, tighten the monitoring of behavioral medicines in the wake of the death of 6-year-old Domico Presnell last year in his Seattle foster home.

Domico's biological mother, a recovering drug addict who had been preparing to regain custody, did not know her son was taking the anti-depressants that caused his death.

Endgame: Murdered Babies Labeled Suicides And Assailants

Date: 1997-05-01

Endgame: Murdered Babies Labeled Suicides And Assailants

By Eugene Narrett

How could nice, upscale 18 year olds from suburban New Jersey toss their newborn in a dumpster? How could an expectant mother in Canada, days from giving birth, insert a rifle into her body and shoot a pellet of compressed air into the head of her infant, who then was delivered with severe brain damage? How could a court find no grounds on which to charge her? How could an au pair, almost 19 years old, apparently batter an infant to death against a bathroom floor?

What else could this be but the end?

It is not quite the end, not yet, just the background information for a thesis I defer until parish dances instead of using fake IDs at the rock clubs and the tattoo and body-piercing parlors?

When going "on a trip" meant packing up for a summer CYO camp?

When no one would have snickered if the teacher called Zorro or Scaramouche a "gay blade"?

When a celebrity stating that he "was raised a Catholic" did not mean that he was looking for more authenticity in a diatribe against the Church?

Nobel Laureate Gets 18-Month Term for Abuse

Date: 1997-04-30

Dr. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a Nobel laureate, was sentenced today to one and a half years in prison for abusing a 15-year-old boy he brought back from a research trip to Micronesia in 1987.

Dr. Gajdusek, 73, pleaded guilty in February to two counts of child abuse for molesting the boy. Under a plea agreement reached with Frederick County prosecutors, Judge Jim Dwyer of Circuit Court suspended all but 18 months of a 30-year sentence.

Dr. Gajdusek, who retired in February from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where he had been chief of the Laboratory for Central Nervous System Studies, was to begin immediately serving his sentence in the county detention center.

He won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976 for his work on ''slow viruses,'' which lie dormant before attacking the body. The infectious agents include one that has been implicated in mad-cow disease.

NEUROLOGIST'S SUSPENSION IS UPHELD

Date: 1997-04-26

PANEL SAYS DOCTOR PRESENTS `DANGER TO PUBLIC HEALTH'

STEVEN GOLDSMITH

A state panel has reaffirmed its decision to bar a Seattle neurologist from practicing medicine until it conducts a hearing on his controversial methods in giving psychotropic drugs to patients as young as 4 years old.

Dr. Daniel Stowens was found by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission to "present immediate danger to the public health, safety and welfare," according to an order released yesterday.

The 21-page order said Stowens, 49 ((age)), exceeded recommended dosages of behavioral medications for his young patients, while failing to regularly check their blood chemistry and heart functions.

The death from anti-depressants last year of one of his patients, 6-year-old Domico Presnell, was described in a recent Post-Intelligencer series, "Medicating Foster Care."

"The practices reflect a serious lack of attention to important details inherent in treating medically complex, vulnerable patients," according to the order from the five-member panel, signed by chairwoman Estelle Connolly.

Pound Pup Legacy