Woman charged in adopted son's death
Woman charged in adopted son's death
Christopher Forder's adoptive mother has been charged in his death.
By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Kitsap County woman who recently moved her family to Africa for religious missionary work has been charged with killing her 8-year-old adopted son in November 2002.
On Saturday, Kimberly Forder, 44, was arrested in Oregon, where she had gone to get medical treatment before returning to Liberia. On Wednesday, Kitsap County prosecutors charged her with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in the death of her son Christopher at the family farm near Silverdale.
Earlier this month, Forder's 26-year-old daughter came forward to say that her mother was responsible for Christopher's death because she didn't seek medical treatment for injuries she had inflicted on him, according to court charging documents.
In the past three weeks, several of the Forder children told Kitsap County deputies of abuse they suffered and that their mother regularly starved and beat Christopher after he was first brought to their home as a foster child at the age of 4, court papers say.
"There was a pattern of assault and torture of this child," said Kitsap County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Claire Bradley. "All of the kids were abused in some fashion, but Christopher got it the worst."
Bradley said the charges stem from years of abuse as well as the allegation that Forder didn't get her son medical treatment before his death. One family friend told authorities that Forder had called her and said Christopher was "acting like he was dying," court charging documents said.
Kitsap County sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilson said Forder treated the child with homeopathic remedies. Forder and her husband, Robert Forder, home-schooled their children and fed them from food grown in their yard, he said.
When sheriff's deputies showed up at the rural property 15 miles west of Bremerton on Nov. 24, 2002 — in response to a 911 call reporting Christopher's death — they were greeted by a group of quiet children dressed conservatively and lined up from tallest to shortest, Wilson said.
Deputies had not been called to the house before nor did they know much about what happened inside the gated 2.8-acre farm, Wilson said.
When asked what happened to Christopher, the children and parents said little about the emaciated boy, whose body was found on a bedroom floor. A blanket partially covered cuts, bruises and scars scattered across his arms, back, chest and buttocks, according to authorities.
At the time, deputies tried to speak to Kimberly and Robert Forder and their children about the bruises and scars. The deputies were told that Christopher had a "reactive detachment disorder" that "caused him to inflict injury upon himself by throwing his body against walls, onto the floor and picking or scratching at his skin," Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said in a statement Monday.
"We knew something was wrong," he said. "We couldn't develop enough probable cause to file a complaint or to make an arrest at that time."
Though an autopsy showed that Christopher died of pneumonia, investigators never closed the case.
This July, the Forders and four children moved to Liberia. The couple have since adopted triplets, Wilson said.
Kathy Spears, a state Department of Social and Health Services spokeswoman, said they placed only one foster child in the Forders' home. The state is looking into how four other "foster" children came to live there. She said the couple were licensed as foster parents in 1997. Spears wouldn't say the age or gender of the child they placed but said it wasn't Christopher.
Spears said Christopher was a foster child before he was adopted by the Forders. DSHS briefly did a "courtesy supervision" of Christopher at the request of the state where the boy had been living. Spears wouldn't say how long this supervision lasted or when it occurred. She said the department's oversight ended when the adoption was finalized.
The daughter who came forward this month said her mother would beat Christopher for not chewing his food correctly, and lock him in an animal pen without food, water or blankets, court papers say. She said the boy swiped dog food and scraps from the compost pile.
On the day Christopher died, Forder's husband allegedly told his children the boy was dying and they could bury him in the backyard or call 911, court papers say. The man then told the children the decision was theirs and he went to bed, the papers say.
His eldest son called 911.
Seattle Times researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org