Case news

Most recent articles added to the case archives


Date: 1997-11-13

Author: FRANK DEVLIN, The Morning Call

A New Hanover Township woman accused of killing her adopted, 3-year-old daughter was ordered Wednesday to face Montgomery County Court by Gilbertsville District Justice Dorothy Skerchock.

After a brief preliminary hearing, 46-year-old Nancy Montalbano was returned to Montgomery County Prison, where she is being held without bail.

Montalbano is charged with third-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

The hearing consisted primarily of Montgomery County Detective Richard Peffal reading conflicting statements Montalbano gave authorities.

Defense attorney Dick Winters did not present testimony.

The case began Oct. 18 after Montalbano drove her daughter, Christine adopted last year from Honduras to Grand View Hospital, West Rockhill Township, where the child was pronounced dead at 1:06 p.m.

An autopsy showed the cause of death was multiple blunt trauma and listed 28 injuries, including a cut liver.

Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala joined the Defense of the Director of Casa Alianza

Date: 1997-11-05

[original Spanish below]

Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala joined the Defense of the Director of Casa Alianza

PRESS RELEASE November 5, 1997

The Human Rights Office of the Archbishopric of Guatemala decided assume the legal defense of the Regional Director of Casa Alianza in relationship to aggression against them by the wife of former President of the Supreme Court.

After many months of research in relation to traffic of babies in Guatemala and Mexico, Bruce Harris, Regional Director for Latin America, announced the discovery that more than one dozen prominent attorneys and other authorities were apparently involved in "marketing" of hundreds of babies in international adoptions. A significant number of these  babies have been reported as stolen or their mothers have been deceived to give their babies up for adoption.

Guatemalan prostitutes tell bitter tales of bondage and baby trade

Date: 1997-11-02

Houston Chronicle

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala - Some of the prostitutes who work in this town's 79 brothels say they have been bought and sold like cattle.

Maria del Refugio Rosas, a Roman Catholic nun who does outreach work with the women of Tecun Uman, believes the stories.

The nun also says she knows at least 15 prostitutes who have sold their babies to help pay expenses.

Rosas says nuns here suspect a business in the nearby town of Coatepeque serves as a sort of trading house for the buying and selling of prostitutes. The trade includes girls as young as 13, she says.

As the main border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico, Tecun Uman sees a constant flow of traffic between the countries of Central America and the north.

The town has a resident population of just 20,000, but as many as 10,000 transients pass through every day.

The brothels crowd just about every corner of town. Dozens of women stand on the front porches.

Most of the more than a dozen prostitutes interviewed say they know of women who have sold their babies. But none would say they had ever sold a child themselves.

Couple Accused of Beating Daughters Tell of Adoption Ordeal

Date: 1997-11-02

Couple Accused of Beating Daughters Tell of Adoption Ordeal


In Moscow one night in May, Richard and Karen Thorne watched one of their newly adopted daughters tuck her doll under the covers, whack it on the head with a shoe, then calmly straighten the covers. It seemed just part of her routine, like a good-night kiss. Only it was a good-night smack.

The Thornes were alarmed. They worried aloud, they recalled, that the girl had learned such behavior by being abused herself. Her birth mother, they had just discovered, had been an alcoholic who left the girl in an orphanage when she was 18 months old. The mother later hanged herself.

But of the two 4-year-olds they were adopting, the Thornes say they worried more about the other, the blonde. She had done nothing but scream from the moment she met them in the same orphanage, where she had lived since she was found as a baby on the street.

Still, it hardly mattered. The Thornes, who had gone through years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, were determined to adopt the girls and complete their family.

Mother gets to keep children

Date: 1997-10-31

St. Petersburg Times

A judge on Thursday ruled that Darcy Akers Ball can keep her three young children because a Tampa lawyer misled her when he had her sign adoption papers in his van in her driveway.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Bonnie Newton said Gregory Boyer didn't explain Ball's rights, didn't give her time to read the papers and didn't ask if she was sure about her decision.

"In his anxiousness to get three children to strangers who he thought would be better parents, he (Boyer) was not honest, respectful or professional," Newton said.

Ball, 23, testified she thought she had no choice the rainy Saturday morning Boyer showed up because she was under the impression her estranged husband, Joshua Ball, already had signed.

"He told me Joshua had already signed the papers and it would be in my best interest to sign," Darcy Ball testified. "I never made plans for this. This was all worked around me."


Date: 1997-10-26


Excerpts from pages 2-4 (702-704)

On April 3, 2004, emergency personnel received a call that six month-
old Riley Owen Bilke was “red in the face and breathing
heavily.”2 Later that day, despite rescue efforts, he died from symptoms
commonly associated with shaken baby syndrome (SBS).3 His father,
Todd Dittberner, was charged with first-degree reckless homicide.4 The
state’s medical experts testified that Riley suffered from the triad of
symptoms that traditionally lead to a diagnosis of SBS—brain
hemorrhaging, retinal hemorrhaging, and brain swelling.5 They
suggested, as is typically assumed with SBS,6 that the baby was probably
crying inconsolably, and that Dittberner became so frustrated that he
shook the baby to death.7 They concluded that only SBS could have
caused those symptoms.8

HONDURAS : Ask FBI to investigate death of girl

Date: 1997-10-24

Original in spanish - google translation to english

Tegucigalpa - Honduras The police asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which shed light on the violent death of a 3-year honduran girl might have been killed by her adoptive mother in Philadelphia, According to official sources quoted by the press on Thursday.

The director of the Directorate of Criminal investigation of Honduras (DIC), Wilfredo Alvarado, said that it has been reported to the FBI in Miami to investigate the crime in Christine Montalbano  of Perkioville, Philadelphia.

The nina, who was born in July 1994 in a Tegucigalpa public hospital where her mother left, was adopted two years later by American Nancy Montalbano.


Tegucigalpa -- La policia de Honduras soliciti a la Oficina Federal de Investigaciones (FBI), que esclarezca la muerte violenta de una nina hondurena de 3 anos que pudo ser asesinada por su madre adoptiva en Filadelfia, segn fuentes oficiales citadas el jueves por la prensa.

Mother: Adoptions were coerced

Date: 1997-10-23

St. Petersburg Times

It was pouring rain on a Saturday when Tampa lawyer Gregory Boyer pulled up in his large, white van to arrange the adoption. A court reporter was setting up his equipment in the van, and two witnesses were arriving in a separate car.

Darcy Akers Ball, 23, said Boyer told her that her estranged husband already had signed the papers. Now it was her turn.

Ball, who has an eighth-grade education, spent 15 minutes signing papers, then watched Boyer drive away.

Days later, after realizing what she had done, Ball decided she wanted to get back her children - Lauren, 5, Brandon, 3, and Vanessa, 1.

Frustrated in her attempts to reach Boyer, she filed suit Oct. 8 in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, alleging Boyer deceived and coerced her into placing her children for adoption. The children have been returned to her on a temporary basis, and Judge Bonnie Newton must now decide if the adoption agreement is invalid.

Newton heard about six hours of testimony Wednesday. One of Boyer's witnesses, however, went into labor while waiting to testify. The hearing will be continued later, possibly next week.


Date: 1997-10-21

Author: FRANK DEVLIN, The Morning Call
Staff writer Keith Herbert contributed to this report.

A 46-year-old New Hanover Township woman has been charged with killing a 3-year-old girl she adopted from Honduras, Montgomery County District Attorney Michael Marino said Monday.

Nancy Montalbano, of 2431 Deep Creek Road, was arraigned Monday before East Greenville District Justice Catherine Hummel and is being held in Montgomery County Prison without bail, Marino said.

A preliminary hearing has been set for Monday.

Montalbano's adopted daughter, Christine, was pronounced dead at 1:06 p.m. Saturday after she took the child to Grand View Hospital, West Rockhill Township, Marino said.

An autopsy by Dr. Ian Hood found 28 injuries, Marino said, including blunt trauma to the body and a lacerated liver.

Montalbano, a single mother, first told authorities that "the child fell down," the district attorney said. But "the injuries were inconsistent with a fall," he said.


Date: 1997-10-21


Philadelphia Daily News

Source: Gloria Campisi, Daily News Staff Writer
It was a new world, far from her native Honduras, and her new mom had dressed the little girl in her best finery to have her picture taken. Somehow, authorities believe, the 3-year-old child knocked over the potty, and soiled her good clothes. Her new mom flew into a rage and beat the little girl, said Montgomery County District Attorney Michael Marino. Little Christine Montalbano was dead when Nancy Jane Montalbano, 45, of Perkiomenville, got her to Grand View Hospital in Sellersville


Date: 1997-10-21


Margo Rutledge Kissell Greene County Bureau
October 21, 1997
Dayton Daily News
Timothy and Kathleen Carroll, a Cedarville couple that was thrust into the public spotlight when five of their children died, has won the right to home-school two of their handicapped children.

The agreement, filed Monday in the Greene County Juvenile Court, specifies that Isaiah, 15, and Samuel, 9, may be home-schooled. The agreement comes after an earlier court ruling in which public schooling was ordered for Isaiah and Samuel because the family wasn't meeting their special education needs.

Isaiah's brain damage hampers his motor skills and speaking ability; Samuel has Down syndrome, a congenital mental deficiency that also has physical effects.

Home schooling of Isaiah and Samuel started Monday, said David Gordon, the Carrolls' attorney who works for the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Va.

The Carrolls have fought to home-school their children since August 1995, citing religious reasons.

Judge Says Couple Used Excessive Force on Adopted Girls

Date: 1997-10-16

Judge Says Couple Used Excessive Force on Adopted Girls


A Queens judge ruled yesterday that an Arizona couple who had been accused of beating their newly adopted Russian children on a flight from Moscow to New York had used excessive force, and he ordered the girls moved to yet another foster home -- their fifth in four months. The judge, who dismissed more serious abuse charges against the adoptive parents, also delayed for at least a month and possibly much longer a decision on the custody of the girls.

The judge, Joseph M. Lauria of Family Court, said that the girls, ages 4 and 5, could live temporarily in the Phoenix area with a relative of the adoptive parents, Richard Thorne, 48, and Karen Thorne, 43.

The girls are at the center of a protracted and convoluted case against the Thornes, who were charged with beating them on the flight to New York on May 28. The Thornes have not had custody of the girls since the flight landed at Kennedy International Airport. The girls lived in two foster homes in New York before moving to a third and then a fourth home in Arizona.

Abuse Case Leaves 2 Adopted Girls in Limbo

Date: 1997-10-12

Abuse Case Leaves 2 Adopted Girls in Limbo


As the case against an Arizona couple accused of abusing their newly adopted Russian daughters on a flight to New York City drags into its fifth month, the girls have been on their own strange odyssey in the United States. They have had to make six moves among four foster homes in two states, staying in two of the homes for only a few days.

The girls, who are still Russian citizens and have learned little English, are technically in the custody of New York City's sprawling child welfare bureaucracy, the Administration for Children's Services, which oversees 42,000 children in foster care. But because the parents, Richard and Karen Thorne, are from Phoenix, the girls, now 4 and 5, are living in a foster home in Arizona while New York City courts consider abuse charges against the Thornes and decide whether and how to reunite the family.

Father Denies He Abused Adopted Girls During Flight

Date: 1997-10-10

Father Denies He Abused Adopted Girls During Flight


A man from Arizona who, with his wife, is accused of beating their newly adopted 4-year-old Russian girls on a flight from Moscow to New York in May, said in court yesterday that he believed in corporal punishment. But he added that his contact with his daughters was nothing more than a pat or a tap.

''We did not beat, abuse or neglect our children on that flight,'' the father, Richard Thorne, said.

Mr. Thorne, 48, described corporal punishment as ''a swat on the behind.'' He said he believed that such a response was appropriate ''when you've tried to do everything else you can.''

''It's a way to get the child's attention,'' he testified in Family Court in Queens. ''Not to hurt the child. Just get the child's attention and show your displeasure.''

Woman Denies She Abused Adopted Children on Plane

Date: 1997-10-09

Woman Denies She Abused Adopted Children on Plane


The Arizona woman who is accused of abusing her two newly adopted Russian children on the May 28 flight from Moscow to New York testified yesterday that she did slap one of the girls, once, out of anger, frustration and embarrassment. But she said she was disciplining the child, not abusing her.

The woman, Karen Thorne, said that one of the girls had never wanted to leave the Russian orphanage where she was raised and that she had screamed and cried from the moment they met. After the girl had been crying for three hours straight in the Moscow airport, Mrs. Thorne said, ''I was that mother I always felt sorry for.''

Pound Pup Legacy