Judge Allows Couple to Visit Russian Girls, Paving Way for Reunion
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
After seven months of forced separation from the two girls they adopted in Russia and were then accused of abusing on the flight home, an Arizona couple has been told that they can begin gradually spending more time alone with the children and be reunited with them at the end of March.
The couple, Richard and Karen Thorne, adopted the two girls in May from a Russian orphanage and spent only a few days with them before flying to New York. On the flight, passengers and flight attendants accused them of slapping and verbally abusing the girls, who were crying and screaming. The couple were arrested when the plane landed at Kennedy International Airport.
The girls, now 5, were taken away from them and put in foster care, and have lived in five foster homes since they arrived in the United States, an unforeseen odyssey that has been severely criticized by child-welfare experts.
The problem of children lingering in state foster care is about to receive new attention from independent advocates who aim to get the children quickly into safe, permanent homes. It's one of many child-welfare reforms under way in Alaska.A statewide citizens board has been named to oversee children in foster care -- seven years after a law went on the books to require the reviews.
Until now, a panel operated only in Anchorage, and it could get to only about one-third of the children in state custody here. The new board will coordinate new and expanded local panels that will monitor the children.
The 2-year-old foster child who died earlier this week was killed by the woman who was going to adopt her, police said.Detectives Friday charged Marcias Reinhold, 38, with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the death of Janessa Aguirre. According to court papers charging Reinhold, death came from severe injuries to the head that caused internal bleeding.
But the child suffered more pain through last weekend before she finally died at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Tuesday, police said. Her face was burned and branded with a hair dryer -- eight times. Her mouth and chin had been scalded by hot food.
Reinhold called paramedics to the home Monday afternoon after, she told police, she left the toddler alone in the bath and came back to find her face down in the water.
A Michigan prosecutor has reviewed the death of a 4-year-old foster child who was in the custody of Chris and Becky Tucker and says he won't file criminal charges.
Branch County, Mich., prosecutor John Livesay told The Herald Journal in Logan that that there is no evidence to support a prosecution.The Tuckers are charged with second-degree felony child abuse for allegedly starving their adopted 7-year-old daughter, the dead child's half-sister, in the basement for months. They are set to go to trial in March.
The family moved to Trenton about a year ago from Coldwater, Mich. In December 1995, Danielle died when she reportedly fell down a flight of stairs at the family home.
Livesay said there was never a criminal investigation into the death of Danielle Tucker because the Michigan Family Independence Agency, the state agency in charge of investigating child abuse and neglect cases, never reviewed it. The agency also never forwarded information about the death to local law enforcement agencies.
BRADENTON -- A man on trial in the death of his son denies harming the boy, but says he should have stopped the abuse.
Joseph Ciambrone admitted Thursday to locking his son in a bathroom and feeding him out of a bucket but blamed his wife for starving and abusing the boy.
Testifying in his first-degree murder trial, Ciambrone said he was wrong not to stop the abuse of his adopted son, Lucas.
"I think I was just so close to the picture that I was blind," he said. "I let Lucas down. I just didn't stop it. I didn't say, "Enough.' "
Prosecutor Deno Economou attacked Ciambrone for not intervening or taking Lucas to a doctor. Ciambrone admitted knowing his son was "severely malnutritioned."
When he died May 13, 1995, the 7-year-old weighed just 32 pounds and had hundreds of scars and injuries. A child-abuse expert testified this week that Lucas was more emaciated than many starving children in Africa.
One or more crippling blows to the head of 7-year-old Lucas Ciambrone were inflicted four to 12 hours before the boy was brought, comatose, to a Bradenton hospital by his parents, medical experts said.
But the words of a little girl -- Lucas' 11-year-old sister -- provided perhaps the most chilling description of the hellish existence that prosecutors say the boy suffered for months before his death in 1995.
During the second day of Joseph Ciambrone's trial on a first-degree murder charge in the death of his adopted son, Brenda Garcia said that she saw Heather Ciambrone throw Lucas to the floor, kick and punch the boy, and hold his head under water. Sometimes, Joseph Ciambrone was in the Rubonia house when the acts occurred, she said.
Brenda who lives in Ohio, gave clear answers of "yes" and "no" under gentle questioning by Assistant State Attorney Jeff Quisenberry.
"Did you ever see Joe Ciambrone stop Heather?" Quisenberry asked.
Joseph Ciambrone held his head in his hands Friday morning as prosecutors unveiled for the first time a pair of life-sized, color photos of the scarred and battered body of his 7-year-old adopted son, Lucas.
The ex-musician and foster father, charged with first-degree murder in the 1995 death of Lucas, also shook his head in apparent protest when attorneys said a world-renowned child abuse expert will testify that Lucas was sexually tortured.
""Joe's reaction was due to the graphic nature,'' Charles Williams, Ciambrone's attorney, later said. ""He still loves his son, and he could not bear to see the photographs because they were too painful for him to watch. These were the natural feelings a parent would have seeing photographs of his deceased son.''
Ciambrone faces life in prison if convicted by a jury chosen Thursday. Jurors will hear opening statements at 9 a.m. Monday. Prosecutors will allege that 23 acts of child abuse over two years or more led to Lucas' death.
Joseph Ciambrone held his head in his hands and turned his back to the court Friday morning as prosecutors - for the first time - unveiled a pair of life-sized, color photographs of the scarred and battered body of his 7-year-old adopted son, Lucas.
The ex-musician and foster father, charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 1995 death of Lucas, also shook his head in apparent protest when lawyers said that a world-renowned child abuse expert will testify that Lucas was sexually tortured.
``Joe's reaction was due to the graphic nature,'' Charles Williams, Ciambrone's attorney, later said. ``He still loves his son and he could not bear to see the photographs because they were too painful for him to watch. These were the natural feelings a parent would have seeing photographs of his deceased son.''
Ciambrone faces life in prison if convicted by a jury chosen Thursday. They will hear opening statements beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. Prosecutors will allege that 23 individual acts of child abuse over a period of two years or more led to Lucas' death.
<excerpt> Stollmeyer getting his kicks with growing family
Former IU soccer star back from Russia after adopting pair
Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN) - December 3, 1997
Why didn't John Stollmeyer play in Indiana soccer's Alumni Game Nov. 7? And why was he eating his birthday dinner, alone, Oct. 25 at a McDonald's in St. Petersburg, Russia?The reasons are related, in a special way. There are two of them, and their names are Vanya and Victor Stollmeyer, the first Hoosier soccer freshman ever to earn all-American honors back in 1982 and an honored member of Indiana soccer's extended family, was in Russia to extend his own family. He was there to...
A judge on Monday moved the trial for a Trenton couple accused of starving and neglecting a 6-year-old adopted child to Salt Lake City.
First District Judge Gordon Low granted a defense request for a change of venue because of publicity in the emotion-charged case in rural Cache Valley."It would be impossible to find anyone here who has not formed an opinion on this case," said defense attorney Shannon Demler.
The ruling came during the arraignment of Chris and Becky Tucker, who pleaded not guilty to second-degree felony child abuse.
A state caseworker, responding from a tip from a neighbor, found the malnourished 6-year-old girl locked in a basement room of the family's home on Nov. 4.
She and her younger half-sister were taken into state protective custody.
During a preliminary hearing last week, a state child abuse investigator testified the adopted girl had been bathing in a trough of brown, rusty water and sleeping on bare bedsprings in the couple's basement.
Annotation: This article traces the events that led to the maltreatment death of Lucas Ciambrone at the hands of his adoptive parents, who had previously served as his foster parents; attention is given to the failures in the child protection system of the Florida county where Lucas' death occurred.
LOGAN -- A dual picture was painted in a Logan courtroom on Tuesday of a couple bound over for trial on charges they abused their 6-year-old adopted daughter. During a preliminary hearing for Chris and Rebecca Tucker, witnesses testified that the Trenton couple seemed like devoted parents to their two boys and 4-year-old adopted daughter while at the same time neglecting the 6-year-old they kept in a squalid basement room.
``She looked like a live corpse,'' said Cache County Sheriff's Sgt. James Meacham of the girl in 1st District Judge Gordon Low's courtroom.
LOGAN, Utah - A 1st District Juvenile judge rejected the state's motion Friday that would have prohibited a Utah couple charged with child abuse from visiting the alleged victims. Judge Jeffrey Burbank agreed with defense attorneys that it was in the children's best interest to let them decide whether they want to see their parents, said Randy Rippling, spokesman for the Division of Child and Family Services. Ripplinger attended the closed hearing.
The National Council for Social Welfare has opened an investigation into the adoption process of Christine Montalbano, a 3-year-old who died from multiple blows to the head and body on Oct. 18 at the Grand View Hospital in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Christine was rushed to the hospital after reportedly falling down a flight of stairs, but an autopsy revealed hemorrhaging in her brain, a lacerated liver and "over 28 blunt trama injuries." Christine's adopted mother, Nancy Jane Montalbano (45) of Perkiomenville, has been charged with third-degree murder and is currently being held at the Montgomery County Prison.
Honduran authorities say Christine, abandoned by her mother at the Hospital Escuela, was adopted by Montalbano on Oct. 28, 1996. Montalbano had previously adopted Richard, who was abandoned by his mother in the Mario Catarino Hospital in San Pedro Sula, on Jan. 28, 1994. Officials of the JNBS said they will seek custody of Richard, who is now 4.
Larry and Elizabeth Dornan still have their 1994 Christmas presents for their grand-daughters.
They hold on to pictures taken that year before their two blonde granddaughters were taken from their Battle Creek, Mich., home and placed in foster care.More than a year later, they learned from a newspaper article that 4-year-old Danielle had fallen down the stairs and died while living in the home of Chris and Rebecca Tucker, 45 miles away in Coldwater.
And two years later, they saw a television story that Danielle's older sister had been found locked in a basement room, wearing only a T-shirt and weighing just 31 pounds, in a little place called Trenton, Utah.
Larry Dornan, 55, cried Friday thinking about "his babies" and what had become of them.
The 6-year-old girl, taken from the Tuckers' home last week, was a golden child who came to live with the Dornans when she was 3 months old, he said.
She was a bright, loving child and didn't suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome like officials have reported, he said.