CARROLL FAMILY CUSTODY CASE BACK IN COURT
CARROLL FAMILY CUSTODY CASE BACK IN COURT
November 28, 1994
Dayton Daily News
"Whatever happened to the Carroll family?"
The case involving the Cedarville family has lain dormant for months, but that question persists. "Almost every place I go, people still ask about the Carrolls," John H. Rion, Kathleen Carroll's lawyer, said last week.
Today, the latest chapter in the case begins to unfold in Greene County Juvenile Court.
The county Children Services Board is facing off against Kathleen and Timothy Carroll, who saw five adopted children die in nine months, in the case's biggest and most crucial custody showdown to date.
"We don't think there's a chance for reunification because the Carrolls have failed to remedy the conditions that caused these two handicapped children to be removed from the home in the first place," said Suzanne Schmidt, Greene County assistant prosecutor. "That's why Children Services is seeking permanent custody of these children, and termination of the Carrolls' parental rights."
Hearings in the case involving Isaiah, a 12-year-old with cerebral palsy, and Samuel, a 6-year-old with Down syndrome, are expected to last all this week.
Up to 35 witnesses could testify, including three nationally known experts. Perhaps the most notable scheduled witness is Dr. Michael Baden, a New York City forensic scientist who has had a hand in death investigations ranging from the John F. Kennedy assassination to the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Baden will testify about the June 14, 1993, death of 12-year-old Josiah. Born with cerebral palsy, Josiah was the last of four adopted Carroll children to die under suspicious circumstances, Schmidt said. A fifth death wasn't considered suspicious.
Rion and Carroll's lawyer, Dennis Gump, consider that type of testimony irrelevant to a custody hearing.
But Schmidt sees it otherwise.
"The issue remains whether these children can be kept safe in the care of the Carrolls because of their past track record," Schmidt said.
The Carrolls pleaded guilty to neglect charges in the 1992 bleach-burning death of Hannah, 6, a Down syndrome child. Her death was followed by three deaths in which paramedics found the children's bodies were cold, raising questions about how long the children were being left unattended.
Visiting Judge Richard T. Cole, who will preside over this week's hearing, said he removed Isaiah and Samuel from the Carrolls' home in August 1993 because Kathleen and Timothy Carroll "failed to understand they were not able to carry such a load" when they repeatedly adopted children with physical or mental problems. Further, he cited their reluctance to accept outside assistance other than that of their church.
Schmidt said these problems still exist.
Gump, who has adopted a child himself, said the Carrolls shouldn't be blamed for the problems of the adoption system that made it possible for them to take in so many severely handicapped children with little monitoring or follow-up.
"I believe in my heart that they are very sincere, very qualified parents and it's not their fault what happened to these children," Gump said.
Since Josiah's death, James, now 18, and Hosea, now 11, have been the sole two children remaining in the home that used to house 10 youngsters.
Four children died there. A fifth died in the care of a Columbus adoption agency. A sixth child, Anne Marie, was put in state custody for setting fires at the family's former home in Montgomery County.
Home-schooling has continued for James and Hosea, said Timothy Carroll. Meanwhile, on Cole's orders and against the Carrolls' wishes, Isaiah and Samuel have been living in foster homes and attending public schools and special programs for the handicapped.
"They have adjusted very well to their foster placements and they enjoy going to school tremendously," said Schmidt, adding that teachers, therapists and foster parents will testify about the youngsters' progress.
For more than a year, the two handicapped youngsters have been allowed visitation with the Carrolls. The latest arrangement brings them to the Carroll home four days a week for an hour and a half after school, Schmidt said.
The eldest son, James, who was charged but found not guilty in the first death, isn't allowed to be present for the visits. Cole ordered that James be kept separate from the children after prosecutors presented testimony that Isaiah "communicated" that he saw James smother Josiah.
Isaiah's disabilities prevent him from speaking. But he uses gestures, pictures and special equipment to communicate, officials say.
So far, no one has been prosecuted in Josiah's death, nor in the two remaining suspicious deaths, despite exhumations of Josiah and Mollie, a 3-year-old with mental retardation and severe allergies. The exhumations followed a coroner's inquest into the deaths of Hannah, Josiah, Mollie and Noah, a 3-year-old "crack" baby with a brain deformity.