Children were adopted from Russia

Date: 2008-03-31

Children were adopted from Russia

(03/31/08)--A Mid-Michigan prosecutor is calling it one of the most complex investigations he's ever seen.

It's a case involving six adopted children from Russia and allegations of physical and mental abuse.

The investigation began when two 19-year-old women claimed their adoptive parents from Lapeer County abused them and their four adopted siblings.

Authorities say the investigation is in its early stages. But court records show this family of eight has a troubled history.

We're not revealing names since no criminal charges have been filed.

Tucked away in northeastern Lapeer County, Burnside Township is easy to overlook. But it is there where two Russian teenagers claim they were abused since being adopted in 1994.

Their parents later adopted four more Russian children. They are now 9 to 12 years old.

"Protective services did substantiate a degree of physical and some mental abuse," said Lapeer County Prosecutor Byron Konschuh.

"Whether that rose to the level of crossing the line into criminal activity, we did not feel there was enough there to charge crimes."

Court records reveal the Department of Human Services concluded the parents used excessive discipline involving a belt, whip and hammer.

The 19 year olds claim their parents would tie their feet and hands together and put them in a closet overnight.

Last October, the parents pleaded no contest in a civil case, handing their four younger children over to foster care.

"There are additional allegations that have come forward as a result of the counseling sessions," Konschuh said. "What those allegations would involve is pretty complex."

Konschuh is now handling the case and looking into new allegations.

"The allegations do include allegations of sexual assault," he said.

"To the extent that those allegations involve my clients, we dispute them entirely," said defense attorney Michael Cronkright.

Cronkright represents the parents.

"My clients have passed now six polygraphs asking questions about the various allegations," he said.

Cronkright says the goal is to be reunited with their children.

"My clients wanted to be parents. They love their family. Not only do I maintain that, but the court has ruled that my clients have done everything that has been asked of them," he said.

"They have been in counseling. They've done parenting time. They have done psychological evaluations."

Despite that, the court-appointed lawyer for the four younger children says they "would be at risk of threatened harm in custody of their adopted parents."

"One of the biggest challenges is just sifting through the volume of information and trying to determine fact from fiction," said Michigan State Police Lt. Patrick McGreevy.

"It's an unusual case," Konschuh said. "It's a very complex case when you're looking at children that have been adopted from another country. This is just overwhelming."

The next DHS hearing in this case is scheduled for June. Again, there have been no criminal charges so far.

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