Couple OKs trust fund, avoids child abuse trial

Date: 2006-01-06

Couple OKs trust fund, avoids child abuse trial

Sara Israelsen
Deseret Morning News

PROVO -- A Utah County couple accused of abusing two adopted children from Russia will avoid jail time under a plea deal negotiated with the Utah County Attorney's Office.

Reed and Teresa Hansen signed the plea arrangement Thursday in Provo's 4th District Court. The deal, which requires the couple to pay $35,000 into a trust fund for the children, stopped a 10-week jury trial that was scheduled to start Monday morning in 4th District Court.

Reed and Teresa Hansen were charged in 2002 with two counts of child abuse/neglect, a second- degree felony, and one class A misdemeanor of child abuse/neglect. The charges came after investigators said the Hansens withheld food from the children as punishment for bad behavior.

On Thursday, Reed Hansen pleaded no-contest to two class B misdemeanor charges of attempted reckless endangerment. When Judge Gary Stott asked Teresa Hansen to enter her plea to two class A misdemeanors of reckless endangerment, she choked out her answer through tears.

"For the sake of my children, guilty," Teresa Hansen said.

The children have already been taken away from the Hansens, and have been placed with families in Utah County.

As part of the deal, the Hansens are required to pay $17,500 per child over the next 24 months.

The money will be put into a fund managed by the court, allowing the children to withdraw money for college or missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After age 25, any remaining money and interest will be given to the children.

"It's a good settlement for the children," said Deputy Utah County Attorney Sherry Ragan. The children, now 7 and 8, are doing well in school and are happy and healthy, she said.

The Hansens adopted three children from Russia, the first boy years before the other two. The second two were brother and sister and the ones that suffered from malnourishment because of the abuse, Ragan said.

A plea-in-abeyance from a previous class A misdemeanor child abuse charge to which Teresa Hansen pleaded no contest in 2001 remains on the books. As part of the plea agreement, however, the former case will remain undisturbed.

The Hansens also have three young children of their own, and still retain custody after a DCFS investigation found those children were not in danger, said Teresa Hansen's attorney Mike Esplin.

The children from Russia had different medical needs and problems that the Hansens didn't fully know how to deal with and perhaps took too long looking for solutions, Esplin said. He said he believes the parents still love the two children and are eager to help support them through the fund.

"They are motivated to get that paid off so they can put this thing to rest and get on with their lives," Esplin said.

The couple will pay $20,000 immediately and the remaining $15,000 over a 24-month court probation. The money was what the couple would have spent on attorney's fees and witness fees for trial, Esplin said. They were also concerned about putting their family through a lengthy jury trial.

"They're being practical," Esplin said of the decision to take a plea deal. "It's possible to win the case . . . but there's always a chance of conviction. So rather than run that risk and be out all this money they elected to be practical."

The couple will be sentenced Monday morning at 8:30.


Copyright C 2006 Deseret News Publishing Co.


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