Adoption records to help case, kids in Judith Leekin trial in PSL

Date: 2007-08-17
Source: tcpalm.com

Adoption records to help case, kids in Judith Leekin trial in PSL

By Tyler Treadway
Friday, August 17, 2007

Authorities say adoption records for 11 children who were under the care of Judith Leekin not only will help their abuse case against the 62-year-old Port St. Lucie woman, they'll help the children find out who they really are.

At a hearing Thursday morning in circuit court, Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans said the birth certificates obtained from Leekin are "highly suspicious," and that the children are mentally handicapped and "their awareness of their names and identities comes only from Judith Leekin."

Added Detective Stuart Klearman of the Port St. Lucie Police Department, the lead investigator on the case, "As a matter of respect to humanity, these kids need to know who they are."

Judge James W. McCann ruled the adoption records are material to the local case against Leekin, who has been charged with 10 felonies alleging she abused and neglected the children while she collected up to $2 million for their care.

Evans said prosecutors now can ask a court in New York to weigh the privacy rights of the children and their biological parents against the needs of the law enforcement agents and decide which, if any, records the New York City Administration for Children's Services and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services will release.

Leekin was arrested July 19 and is charged with several counts of elderly or disabled adult abuse, multiple counts of aggravated child abuse, possession of a fake driver license and tampering with a witness. Dressed in orange inmate scrubs, Leekin remained silent during Thursday's hearing.

Authorities say Leekin used four aliases at four agencies in New York City between July 1988 and April 1996 to adopt 11 children.

Klearman said the records might also lead authorities to one of the adoptees, now an adult, who is missing.

The case against Judith Leekin:

  • Allegedly used four aliases — all with the same birth date — at four agencies in New York City between July 1988 and April 1996 to adopt 11 children and is thought to have collected $1.5 million to $2 million over the years.
  • Police believe the children were malnourished, kept in a utility room in the house and forced to sleep on the floor, denied an education and medical care and at times bound with handcuffs and plastic ties.
  • Authorities say the children, now ages 15 to 27, are mentally handicapped; one child is blind and mumbles; another can barely walk or stand; all have scars on their wrists and ankles.
  • Charges include several counts of elderly or disabled adult abuse, multiple counts of aggravated child abuse, possession of a fake driver license and tampering with a witness.

Leekin's side:

  • After Leekin's arrest, defense attorney Mario Garcia said, "She indicated that she loved these children, that she took care of them. She nurtured them and fed them."
  • Garcia said after Thursday's hearing he has evidence that would "paint a different picture" of Leekin, including photos of her taking the children to a park and to lunch at Burger King. He said he has identified a doctor who treated "one or more of the children" and evidence of dental treatment.

What happens next?

  • Leekin waived her right to an arraignment today, relying on a written not-guilty plea.
  • Her next court appearance — 8:30 a.m. Oct. 17 — will be to see if the case is ready to schedule for trial.
  • Jailed in lieu of $4.5 million bail, she could face up to 190 years in prison if convicted on all 10 counts.
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