Parents Who Adopted 76 Targeted In Abuse Probe (Mentions Stephen Nason Massey, Mentions 27 yr old daughter)

Date: 1992-09-06

Parents Who Adopted 76 Targeted In Abuse Probe

Sunday, September 6, 1992

SISTERS, Ore. - Just a few years ago, Dennis and Diane Nason were national heroes for raising dozens of adopted children from around the world, almost all of them mentally or physically handicapped.

Now, in an ugly custody hearing, they stand accused of physical and sexual abuse.

Recently, some of the 76 children they adopted have told of being beaten and being shocked with a cattle prod. Younger children, they said, were caged in their beds.

The couple, once celebrated on CBS' "60 Minutes," are seeking custody of three of their biological children and an adopted grandson. They have offered to let the state take permanent custody of the eight other adopted children.

The state put all 12 children in foster homes after adult children made allegations of abuse. No criminal charges have been filed, but the matter has gone to a grand jury. The Nasons expect charges.

"There will be no copping a guilty plea," Diane Nason, 48, said. "We are not guilty." She said the children with emotional problems were rejected by other families and looking for someone to blame.

During the custody hearing, a 27-year-old woman adopted when she was 10 said that Dennis Nason, 49, molested her and attempted intercourse.

The woman said she once was forced to eat a bar of soap. She also said she had been hit with a belt during meals for eating too slowly and was hit again when the first beating caused her to urinate.

Stephen Massey, 21, who was adopted as a teenager, said two of the children died, possibly as a result of unsanitary conditions. He testified that a boy with Down syndrome often was caged for half a day as punishment for eating off someone else's plate.

The state Children's Services Division determined that the boy and another child died of dysentery.

The Nasons, married in high school, adopted disabled children from Vietnam, India, Mexico, El Salvador and the United States. They have children of their own.

For 14 years, they lived in a 33-bedroom farmhouse with a view of the Cascades. Portrayed as heroes in the media, they encouraged self-reliance with an emphasis on hard work, no coddling and making older kids take care of younger ones.

When contributions that sustained the family dropped off and Diane Nason's health began to fail, they found homes for most of the children and moved to Toutle, Wash.

In May 1991, police and social workers began investigating allegations of abuse.


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