Case news

Most recent articles added to the case archives


Date: 1997-02-28

Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Author: Shirley Armbruster The Bee


Dateline: HANFORD
When Rhonda Smith watches her 14-month-old daughter giggling and playing in the living room, her heart is full of hope for a bright future for the child she met almost a year ago in a Vietnamese orphanage.

But at the same time, Smith's heart is breaking because she remembers other children she saw in Vietnam - the ones living on the streets and begging for food or money because the orphanage had no room for them.

"I felt really bad; we were told not to give to these children because there were so many destitute children that they would continue coming," she said.

"It was difficult emotionally because these little children were standing there - maybe hungry - and I couldn't help them."

Their image was so powerful that when Smith returned to Hanford with 4-month-old Susie last May, she was determined to do something to help those homeless children.

Sex Abuse Case Casts Pall on Nobel Scientist

Date: 1997-02-23

Sex Abuse Case Casts Pall on Nobel Scientist


His rise to the top of the scientific world is one of this century's great adventures of the mind. It was an odyssey of physical and intellectual daring that found him autopsying brains of reputed cannibals by lantern light in the wilds of New Guinea and accepting a Nobel Prize from the king of Sweden.

His fall from grace seems no less dramatic. Dr. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, 73, an authority on exotic brain diseases and obscure cultures who ran his own federal laboratory at the National Institutes of Health, pleaded guilty in a Maryland court last week to two counts of sexually abusing an adopted son between 1989 and 1991, beginning when the boy was 14. Gadjusek's retirement from the institute, which reportedly paid him $123,000 annually, was effective immediately.


Date: 1997-02-22

News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN)


A county inspection has found problems including moldy kitchen pots, exposed electrical wiring and inoperative bathrooms in the home where 19 Haitian-born children live with an ex-missionary.

The problems were found by the Shelby County Office of Family and Children, which helps supervise Dan Blackburn's custody of the children. They were awarded to him in a July 3 court decision; Blackburn and his wife, Kathy, have been involved in a bitter custody battle since filing for divorce.

Nobel Scientist Pleads Guilty to Abusing Boy

Date: 1997-02-19
Published: February 19, 1997

A leading researcher at the National Institutes of Health who shared the Nobel Prize in 1976 for discoveries involving degenerative brain diseases pleaded guilty today to sexually abusing one of dozens of Micronesian boys he had brought to live with him in his Maryland home.

The scientist, Dr. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, will serve up to a year in prison under a plea agreement arranged by his lawyer, Mark Hulkower, and the prosecutor, Scott Rolle, in Frederick County Circuit Court in Maryland. Dr. Gajdusek had been scheduled to stand trial next week and could have faced 30 years in prison.

As part of the plea agreement, other Federal and state sexual abuse charges against him were dropped, and Dr. Gajdusek will be able to leave the United States to continue his research into virus-borne diseases after serving his sentence.

Dr. Gajdusek has been on leave from his job as chief of the Laboratory for Central Nervous System Studies at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Today, the institutes announced his immediate retirement.

Seeking a Safe Haven

Date: 1997-02-18

Colleen Heild
Albuquerque Journal

Children pay price as frustrated foster parents, social workers bail out

New on the job and fresh out of school, Catherine Culver White juggled as many as 26 foster care cases in early 1993.

According to a federal consent decree, the maximum load for caseworkers in the state Children, Youth and Families Department is 20.

But White did what she could, focusing on cases she felt presented the most risk.

She lasted a year on the job.

Ricky Aragon Jr. didn't survive even that long in his grandmother's foster home.

His was one of the cases low on White's list. The 2-year-old was beaten to death in April 1993 by his maternal grandmother, whom the state paid to provide foster care.

When bad things happen in foster care, social workers and foster parents are the first to be blamed.

In fact, their problems are intertwined -- and critics say the system is breaking down because CYFD isn't providing enough support to either group.


Date: 1997-02-15

SAN DIEGO A Superior Court judge will decide whether to hear testimony from two young boys who allegedly saw their parents burn their toddler cousin to death after years of abuse. The testimony could result in the parents' execution, even though the parents have offered to plead guilty and spend the rest of their lives in prison. "We shouldn't even be going to trial," said Michael Popkins, who represents the boys' mother, Veronica...

[excerpt from an article]

Alteration of child's death certificate is defended

Date: 1997-01-22

Author: Dennis Cassano; Staff Writer

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Garry Peterson took the witness stand Wednesday to defend the operations of his office, which have been under attack in the trial of Janet Ostlund, who is accused of killing her daughter by shaking her.

Peterson and four physicians who cared for the child until she died at Minneapolis Children's Hospital July 15 were called by the prosecution to rebut the testimony of doctors called by the defense to testify that 2-year-old Maria Ostlund died after falling from a couch in her Robbinsdale home, not from being shaken so violently that her brain was damaged.

Janet Ostlund is charged with second-degree murder.

Cause of girl's death disputed

Date: 1997-01-15

Two-year-old Maria Ostlund died July 15 because she had been shaken so hard that her brain was damaged, a Hennepin County medical examiner testified Wednesday in the trial of her mother, Janet.

"It is inconceivable that these injuries could have occurred from a fall off a couch," Dr. Lindsey Thomas said. Janet Ostlund of Robbinsdale is charged with second-degree murder - unintentionally killing someone during an assault. She maintains that the adopted...


Date: 1997-01-12

Pamela Constable
Washington Post

The anxious Americans, mostly young couples and single women who had never been to the Third World before, were told to keep a low profile and stay indoors as much as possible.

At night, in their hostel rooms, they could hear bombs going off. On the sidewalks of the dirty, depressing city, people would glare or mutter in Spanish as they passed.

When the signal came from their lawyer, four or five of them would be bundled into a small rented plane and flown to a remote town in the Andean highlands. They glimpsed children in rags, soldiers with machine guns, sometimes prisoners being paraded across the village square.

After a while, a local official in a rumpled suit would come to their hotel rooms with questions and documents. Their lawyer, an American named James P. Gagel, would translate, papers were signed and hands shaken, and the visitors were whisked back to Lima.

Then came a second agonizing wait, weeks of idle days and sleepless nights while Gagel tried to push the bureaucracy along.

Couples Wait With Empty Cradles / As adoptions stall, agencies taken to court

Date: 1997-01-05

Newsday (Melville, NY)

Series: Last in a series
Couples Wait With Empty Cradles / As adoptions stall, agencies taken to court

Author: Stephanie Saul. STAFF WRITER

"I know this news must come as a shock to you, and it is with regret that I relay it to you," said the letter from the U.S. Consulate in Paraguay.

The two-page letter to Mike and Millie Collica was dated Sept. 24, 1996. Attached to it was an article from the Asuncion newspaper Noticias with a picture of the child the South Hempstead couple had hoped to adopt.

"It is possible that the child you know as Moises Godoy is a stolen child, whose real relatives have recognized him from the photograph in the newspaper," the letter said.

At the very least, the letter said, U.S. Consulate officials would have to interview Moises' mother and, possibly, conduct blood tests to confirm the baby's identity.

It had been a year and a half since the Collicas had been told that the baby would be theirs.

Defending parents' rights to raise children in a nudist family

Date: 1997-01-01

Defending parents' rights to raise children in a nudist family

W.D. Peckenpaugh

Below is a quote from an actual person defending adults' right to practice social nudism, but likening parents' inclusion of children in family nudism to "child abuse." The sentiments this author expresses are quite common to those who believe they know what is best for you and your children. Read it several times, and I will then dissect it.

St. Paul man struggling to clear his name; In several ways, Bauer case mirrors that of the Dunlaps (Vince bauer)

Date: 1996-12-31

Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities

Unsolved murders
St. Paul man struggling to clear his name // In several ways, Bauer case mirrors that of the Dunlaps

Author: Curt Brown; Staff Writer

Correction: Published 01/01/97: A photo caption appearing with this article incorrectly stated when a photograph of Vince Bauer was taken. It was taken in December 1996.

At first glance, Vince Bauer and Brad Dunlap seem to have little in common.

Dunlap, 33, comes from middle America, runs marathons and has a good job with a graphics company in Hopkins. Bauer, 34, grew up in a Vietnamese orphanage, hobbles from childhood polio and lives off disability checks on St. Paul's East Side.

But Bauer and Dunlap share one distinction. Although neither has been charged with a crime, they remain the focal points in two of the Twin Cities' unsolved killings of 1996.

Anne Dunlap and Susan Bauer each died a violent death. And speculation has centered on Brad Dunlap and Vince Bauer as the most likely suspects.

Jersey lawyer escapes a Peruvian nightmare

Date: 1996-12-13

Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)
Author: Russell Ben-Ali; Star-Ledger Staff

Baby-trafficking. The words, leveled in a charge by a Peruvian police commander, struck James Gagel like a death sentence.

And it nearly was. The Rutherford attorney and Rutgers law grad traveled to Peru on a Fulbright fellowship. In 1992, Gagel found himself facing a 20-year jail term and a death threat from Sendero Luminoso, the guerrilla organization known as the Shining Path. His name became synonymous with hysterical charges of kidnapping babies to sell their body parts.

But that was 1992. After a year in Lima's San Jorge prison and three more in which he was forbidden to leave Peru's capital city, Gagel returned to the U.S. two weeks ago, first to Florida and then home to Rutherford."It's so great to be back, great to not have to look over my shoulders, great to be once again in an atmosphere of freedom," Gagel, 40, said yesterday as he spoke by telephone from the office of his friend, Hackensack attorney Harold Springstead.

Judge lets plea stand

Date: 1996-12-11

The News & Observer

DURHAM - A Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that a woman who pleaded guilty last month to felony child abuse charges knew what she was doing when she entered her plea and that her attorney provided her with competent counsel.

Melinda Ann Wilkins insisted that she was innocent and tried to convince Judge Orlando Hudson during a daylong hearing that she would not have pleaded guilty to abusing her adopted daughter if she had known that she was going to get more than six months jail time.

"I knew I didn't do anything intentionally to hurt my daughter because I went through too much to get her," Wilkins said on the stand Tuesday. "At that time, I was scared. That's why I took the plea bargain

Mother blocked from reversing child abuse plea

Date: 1996-12-11

Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC)
Author: JOHN STEVENSON The Herald-Sun

Claiming the Durham public defender's office misled her, a mother attempted unsuccessfully Tuesday to erase her recent guilty plea on charges of abusing her daughter so severely that the child is permanently disabled.

The case against Melinda Ann Wilkins, 32, of 1700-A Gunter St., was described earlier by Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson as ``probably the worst child abuse case I've seen where the child did not die.''

When Wilkins' 19-month-old daughter was taken to Duke Hospital in August 1995, she was unconscious, had a blood clot on the brain, retinal hemorrhaging, a fractured skull and a fractured back. The child still is blind, deaf and unable to walk, talk or feed herself.

Still, Wilkins told Hudson on Tuesday that she was led to believe she would be sentenced to no more than six months in jail for the felonious child abuse charge.

But when she actually was sentenced Nov. 13, Hudson gave her between 31 and 47 months.

Pound Pup Legacy