'Beyond Abuse; It Was Torture'

Relates to:
Date: 2006-08-29
Source: kitsapsun.com

'Beyond Abuse; It Was Torture'

County Jail | Authorities say Christopher Forder's body was bruised when he was found dead on his bedroom floor.

Derek Sheppard, DSHEPPARD@KITSAPSUN.COM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

As 8-year-old Christopher Forder lay on his bedroom floor, stricken with pneumonia, heavily bruised and nearing death, his father called a family meeting.

Inside the family's Seabeck-area home, the father, Robert, told his seven children they had a choice: They could bury their brother in the backyard, or call 911 and risk having the state snatch all of the children away because of Christopher's obvious bruising.

Later that night, Nov. 24, 2002, the parents tried unsuccessfully to revive Christopher with CPR, and a son called 911.

The account of Christopher's last moments is contained in court documents alleging that his mother, 44-year-old Kimberly Forder, abused and neglected her son to the point of death, never seeking outside medical help as his pneumonia grew worse.

Shortly after Christopher's death, Kitsap County authorities grew suspicious, but for nearly four years, couldn't get enough people to talk. There wasn't enough cause to make an arrest — until now.

Forder is in Kitsap County jail, with her bail set at $1 million. She is charged in Kitsap County Superior Court with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter. While court records reveal a disturbing pattern of abuse and a family suspicious of outside authority, the Forder Web site portrays a happy, religious family that moved to Africa to pursue Christian missionary work.

On Monday, clad in a red jail jumpsuit, her head hung low, Forder spoke softly. She pleaded innocent to the charges.

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer likened Christopher's abuse to the pain suffered by prisoners of war.

"A young boy died at the hands of those whom society had entrusted with his care," Boyer said. "It went beyond abuse; it was torture."

During a Monday afternoon press conference, Boyer noted that there were some things authorities couldn't address yet.

When asked if more charges could be coming, Boyer said it was "highly possible."

"The investigation continues as to other suspects," he said.

The night Christopher died, Detective Lori Blankenship walked into his bedroom where she saw a bruised and battered little boy partially covered with a blanket lying on the floor.

"It appeared to be a case of abuse," she said. "This is a case that has stuck with me all these years."

Dr. Emanuel Lacsina, the Kitsap County Coroner's Office pathologist, determined that Christopher died of severe pneumonia, but he ruled the manner, which explains whether the death was natural or not, was "undetermined," leaving the case open.

At the time, the parents said the bruising was from "reactive detachment disorder," which caused Christopher to scratch and pick at his skin and throw himself into walls.

Blankenship said the family consulted a doctor who said the disorder was a possibility, but it was never diagnosed.

The Kitsap Sun was unable to contact family members on Monday.

Robert and seven of the couple's children are now in Liberia, Africa, acting as Christian missionaries independent of an established church or aid organization. When they lived in Seabeck, they were believed to have home-schooled the kids. Kimberly was a stay-at-home mom and Robert was a journeyman painter.

The Forders have adopted eight children, including Christopher, and have three now-grown biological children.

The break in the case came after police began an investigation against one of their biological children.

Their son, Michael V. Forder, 23, is also in Kitsap County jail, charged with second-degree rape of an adult family member.

During the investigation of that case, detectives learned that the Forder parents had moved to Africa, though they don't believe it was in order to flee prosecution.

Shortly thereafter, the sheriff's office received a report from Children Protective Services in Oregon outlining allegations of abuse that preceded Christopher's 2002 death. The allegations came from one of the family members. It's the only known CPS report filed about the family.

Detectives then started interviewing some of the children.

Court documents outline conversations detectives had with three children that detail a pattern of abuse against the family, especially Christopher.

One child told detectives that Christopher was beaten an average of six times a day. It was alleged Kimberly Forder was the primary disciplinarian.

If he didn't chew his food correctly, his mother would take away his food, sometimes for days at a time, documents allege.

The boy resorted to stealing scraps from a compost heap, and eating dog food.

If the boy soiled himself, he was forced to wear the dirty diaper, sometimes on his head.

If he didn't wash his clothes correctly in a 5-gallon bucket, his parents were accused of dunking his head in the dirty water "until he stopped struggling," court documents said.

Christopher had been with the Forder family four years after his adoption. Daily beatings were the norm, family members alleged in court documents.

Michael Forder told detectives that his parents started treating the children better after Christopher's death.

The alleged pattern of abuse comes in stark contrast to the cheerful, healthy picture of the family on the Forders' Web log.

Many of the posts document the months before the family's July 11 departure to serve as missionaries in Liberia. The couple sold their home, packed their belongings and moved with the seven youngest children to Liberia.

Children are smiling in the photographs, and the couple writes often about blessings from God.

"We hope to have a home, with a farm for children, and a school with a small medical clinic," they wrote.

When Kimberly returned from Africa to Oregon earlier this month to treat an infection, detectives went down to meet her. She voluntarily returned to Kitsap County, where she was booked into jail on Saturday.

The cheerful family picture online follows what authorities said appeared to be a healthy family to those on the outside.

When they lived here, if someone visited they would see "a perfect, happy family," Blankenship, the detective, said.

"They always seemed to be playing in good spirits over there," said neighbor Dennis Hughes. "I never heard any hard discipline going on."

Secrecy, Sheriff Boyer said, kept much of the abuse hidden, and detectives are still learning more and hope to hear from anyone who knows anything else.

"A young boy died needlessly and without much notice four years ago," he said. "As a community we didn't know what went on in the Forder residence, until now."

Help Needed

Anyone with information about the Forder case is asked to call (360) 377-7101.

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