No Holiday Visit for Couple Accused of Starving Sons

Date: 2003-12-23

No Holiday Visit for Couple Accused of Starving Sons


A State Superior Court judge refused on Tuesday to let a couple accused of starving their four adopted sons have Christmas visiting privileges with them.

The judge cited the psychological impact such a visit could have on the sons, and the fact that they have all had significant weight gains. All four have nearly doubled their weights since they were taken away from the couple on Oct. 10.

The couple, Vanessa and Raymond Jackson of Collingswood, N.J., were arrested on Nov. 12 and charged with child neglect and aggravated assault after a neighbor found their 19-year-old adopted son, Bruce, looking for food in the garbage. Three other adopted children were also found to be malnourished.

''I don't want them to have a setback,'' Judge Irvin J. Snyder of State Superior Court here said. ''We know that they weren't thriving, but we know that they are thriving now. I see no proof that visitation will benefit the victims.''

In a hearing before Judge Snyder, the lawyer representing Mrs. Jackson, Richard Josselson, presented arguments in favor of changing the conditions of the couple's bail and allowing a visit. ''All we want is that these kids do not feel abandoned again by a new set of parents,'' Mr. Josselson said. He said that the Jacksons would not force a visit on their children if they did not want to see them. They would also agree to supervised visits.

The Jacksons have been freed on $100,000 bond each.

Mr. Josselson also argued that there were no signs of physical abuse. But the Camden County prosecutor, Vincent P. Sarubbi, objected to the defense lawyer's claim. Citing a report by Dr. Marita Lind, an assistant pediatrics professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Mr. Sarubbi read off the changes in the adopted sons' heights and weights after two months away from their parents.

Bruce, 19, who weighed 45 pounds and stood 48 inches tall on Oct. 10, now weighs 75.4 pounds and has grown three inches. Keith Jackson, 14, gained 26 pounds and grew nine and a half inches. Michael, 9, gained 18 pounds and grew an inch. Thomas, 10, gained 14 1/2 pounds and grew an inch as well.

''It astounds me that the defense argues that there is no physical abuse,'' Mr. Sarubbi said.

Mr. Josselson argued that the care and treatment that the sons received from the hospital, specifically the intravenous feeding, could cause such a growth spurt in anyone. ''I can't dispute the weight gain,'' Mr. Josselson said. ''I would disagree that no medical condition led to the boys' condition.''

Mr. Sarubbi also disputed claims of fetal alcohol syndrome, which has been cited by supporters of the parents as a cause of the boys' condition.

The prosecutor provided further testimony from Dr. Lind's report showing that the children's last medical claim from Medicaid coverage was as late as 1999 and as early as 1995. Mr. Sarubbi also said that all of Bruce's teeth would have to be extracted because of their current condition.

In addition, Mr. Sarubbi told the judge that the couple had engaged in ''psychological warfare'' against Bruce before visiting privileges were banned and had blamed him for breaking up the family. ''Rather than give their love and attention, they further poisoned these kids' minds against Bruce,'' Mr. Sarubbi said.

The defense called the charge ''totally ridiculous.''

Deborah Klein Davis, who represents the children through the state public defender's office as their legal guardian, said that ''several children'' asked to see their parents three weeks ago. ''They feel very torn,'' Ms. Davis said.

She said they were receiving therapy and saw each other weekly.

Because the motion to allow a visit was submitted on Tuesday, Ms. Davis said, she had not had an opportunity to assess the psychological impact of the children's spending Christmas with the Jacksons.


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