Records point to extent of abuse by PSL woman

Date: 2007-07-25

Records point to extent of abuse by PSL woman

By Will Greenlee
Originally published 10:23 a.m., July 25, 2007
Updated 10:23 a.m., July 25, 2007

PORT ST. LUCIE — One of the adults in Judith Leekin's care appeared "brainwashed," while another was "functionally deprived" and showed "obvious signs of medical, dental neglect."

These adults and two others — all in their 20s — were socially isolated, denied an education and health care and bound with plastic zip ties and handcuffs, according to records obtained Wednesday, a day after the 62-year-old local woman was charged with their abuse.

"Getting them the care that they need, I'm sure would cost her some money to do that, and she limits her expenses by restricting their care," police Capt. Scott Bartal said. "If you send a kid to school, that's an expense that you're going to have to realize and she didn't have that expense. Why she did what she did, it's all for financial gain."

Leekin was arrested last week on aggravated child abuse and other charges after she allegedly abandoned an 18-year-old woman at a Publix in St. Petersburg. She was accused of malnourishing children in her care, and now she's facing criminal charges for four adults in her care.

Each count of aggravated elderly or disabled adult abuse carries a $1 million bond, bringing Leekin's total bond amount to $4,435,000. She remained in the St. Lucie County Jail on Wednesday, a jail official said.

Police suspect Leekin received subsidies from New York, where the nine people appear to have been adopted over a span of a few years, and the federal government. Bartal believes Leekin used more than one name to adopt the children and got thousands of dollars a month.

He also said Leekin is thought to have adopted two other people, though investigators haven't been able to locate them.

Court records in New York that police were seeking last week have been unsealed, though "even after they're opened, our communication with the State of New York as far as being able to positively identify these people is limited because of confidentiality of this adoption process," Bartal said.

Meanwhile, Leekin's Miami-based attorney, Mario Garcia Jr., declined comment.

"I choose not to try my cases in the media," he said.

One of the victims indicated he'd been in the adoptive home for 20 years and had no schooling past the third or fourth grade.

A doctor from the state Department of Children & Families examined at least four of the adults and a summary of his findings was included in a warrant application supporting the most recent charges.

It read in part, "These adults were isolated socially from interacting with other people, denied educational opportunities, denied medical or dental care and often restrained utilizing zip ties or handcuffs and forced to sleep in live on a small hallway floor and only able to use a sheet and single pillow."

Bartal said Leekin "conditioned" the kids to speak with authorities without "giving up what was really going on."


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