Cory Bradley McLaughlin case
July 4, 1997, paramedics went to the North Carolina home of 45 year-old Eddiesenior McLaughlin and found 4-year-old, adoptee, Cory Bradley McLaughlin, severely beaten. He was pronounced brain-dead at the hospital not long before he was taken off life support. Both of his little hands and one foot were burned. There were bruises on his back, stomach, legs, and a lump on his forehead.
On April 8, 1999, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and second-degree murder. She used a computer keyboard to beat the boy to death. Mrs. McLaughlin said she was disciplining Cory for hiding her rings. She was sentenced to only 7 - 10 years in prison followed by 5 years probation.
During a search of McLaughlin’s home, detectives found a contract between the adopter and Michael, an adoptee who’d been removed from the home. In the contract, he promised not to rub his eyes, scratch himself, tear holes in his clothes, write incorrect words, enter rooms without permission, watch movies, play outside, or play with toys. He also promised to pay back Mrs. McLaughlin for any damages to her belongs while he lived there.
Eight-year-old, Michael, had been removed from the home one month before Cory’s death by Social Services after he revealed that Mrs. McLaughlin had forced him to drink rubbing alcohol. The adopter was in full agreement with the removal saying that she could not handle the boy without her husband. She had always complained that Michael was a problem for her. Nevertheless, they left Cory at the mercy of this woman. If they had been his real parents instead of adopters, I’m sure all children would have been removed from the home along with Michael.
McLaughlin’s husband was stationed in Bosnia at the time of these incidents. Michael is currently living with another member of the McLaughlin family.
McLaughlin’s lawyer stated that the adopter has “psychological difficulties” and blames the abuse on “mental illness.” McLaughlin was diagnosed with paranoid and schizotypical personality disorders, with traits of obsessive compulsiveness by psychologist Thomas Harbin. Why was this couple allowed to adopt children?
According to the report of an investigation into Cory's death, the Department of Social Services did not accept information provided by the community as a formal report of abuse or neglect in the case of the McLaughlins. It is implied in the report that social workers intervened on behalf of the couple because they were adopters. It is also stated that social workers were confused about how to respond to the allegations of abuse because the children were adopted.
The report did not make any recommendations about failures in the adoption system.
The director of Social Services, Chip Modlin, said there had been no allegations of abuse against Cory. After family members, friends and teachers said that they did warn Social Services about their suspicions and signs of abuse, Modlin then said that every allegation of abuse made about Cory was investigated.
The foster family who had Cory before he and Michael were both adopted by the McLaughlins in 1996 is suing the Cumberland County Department of Social Services for an undisclosed amount of money. The lawsuit purports to seek money for Cory’s “brothers and sisters.” I cannot imagine who these “brothers and sisters” might be since Cory was adopted. I hope the foster family doesn’t think they are entitled to any money from Cory’s death.
It is difficult to investigate CPS failures because child protection laws require confidentiality. When Cory’s records were ordered to be released, it was only the second time a Superior Court judge ordered the release of such records. Then the lawyer for the county held up release of the records asking for an agreement that only certain people will be able to see them.
“They hide behind confidentiality laws so much that nothing ever gets changed. All they have to do is close up the records and say they can’t name the social worker,” said Cory’s former foster caregiver. I want to add that they also do this in cases where foster families are abusive to the children in their care.
The foster family had cared for Cory since his birth. If he was relinquished, I wonder if this is what his mother wanted for her son when she chose adoption.
Ironically, the McLaughlins live on Einstein Drive.
This case shows how the entire system: social workers, court officials, foster care, and adoption has failed to be in the “best interest” of children.