Boy Slain; Adoptive Mother Arrested: Reports say woman is bipolar

Date: 2006-05-05

Boy Slain; Adoptive Mother Arrested: Reports say woman is bipolar

05 May 2006
Sukhjit Purewal
Monterey County Herald

May 5--The picture that has emerged of a longtime Seaside woman accused of beating her adopted son to death in Arizona last month is of a woman who suffered from bouts of depression and who told acquaintances she suffered from bipolar disorder.

Vicki Lynn Hulsey, 45, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of 10-year-old Jarod "Jerry" Hulsey, who died April 3 at Hulsey's Mesa, Ariz., home.

Hulsey admitted killing the boy when police responded to her home on a call for help, said Sgt. Charles Trapani.

"She (Hulsey) asked the officer for his gun," Trapani said. "She said she wanted to kill herself."

Hulsey is also charged with one count of child abuse. A police report cited by the Arizona Republic newspaper indicates that Hulsey suffers from bipolar disorder.

Jerry's biological mother, who reportedly still resides in Monterey County, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Police reported that Hulsey took Jerry in as a foster child when he was 18 months old and adopted him when he was 4.

Vicki Hulsey had been suffering from bouts of depression for years before she moved with her son to Mesa two years ago. One former acquaintance, who asked not to be identified, said Hulsey's behavior displayed red flags during that time. The acquaintance now wishes Child Protective Services had been called.

What is not known is Hulsey's state of mind when she first took custody of Jerry.

People who apply to become foster parents are put through a battery of background checks to assure they have no criminal records and are qualified to care for children. Normally a person diagnosed with a mental disability is precluded from adopting, said Elliott Robinson, director of social and employment services for Monterey County. Robinson joined the department after Jerry's adoption.

"If someone has a mental condition, that is a barrier to bonding or caring for the child," Robinson said. "That is not an adoptive placement we will pursue."

But a parent's emotional troubles may not always be obvious, he said, or they may surface after an adoption is completed.

An acquaintance from Monterey County who asked not to be identified called Hulsey a "devoted" mother. Hulsey was single and did not have other children.

But as time went on the acquaintance said, Hulsey's condition "deteriorated." At one point Hulsey mentioned she suffered from bipolar disorder.

People with bipolar condition experience alternating bouts of manic moods and depression.

"She was in a bed a lot more," the acquaintance said.

Jerry began spending a lot of time at a neighbor's home. He would often eat dinner and sleep there.

The acquaintance warned Hulsey to get more active in Jerry's life or CPS would be called.

Things did improve, according to the friend, but soon Hulsey and Jerry moved to another Seaside neighborhood and eventually to Mesa. Still, the friend and Jerry remained close and he would stay at the friend's home when he and Hulsey visited the area.

After the Hulseys moved to Arizona, someone did call CPS in Mesa. An official at Jerry's private school, where he was a fifth-grader, called Child Protective Services in January, 2005 to report a mark on Jerry's face.

The allegation was treated as one of very low-level risk, and no abuse was substantiated, according to a Arizona CPS spokeswoman Liz Barker Alvarez.

Mesa police went to the boy's school, where they interviewed him and Hulsey separately, Trapani said. Hulsey admitted slapping Jerry as a form of discipline but denied kicking him, as Jerry claimed. She agreed to get counseling, Barker Alvarez said.

After Jerry's death, a friend of Hulsey's told Mesa police she had called CPS, also in January 2005. The friend said she had received a call from Hulsey who said she was contemplating suicide and that she had struck Jerry, said Trapani.

The next time police interceded with the Hulseys was after Jerry's death.

Jerry was last seen alive was on March 31, a Friday, as he walking home from school. He did not go to school the following Monday.

When police arrived that day, Hulsey told them she had killed her son using her own hands.

"Her right forearm was extremely swollen and bruised," Trapani said.

Hulsey is being held on $100,000 bail in Maricopa County jail. She will be back in Superior Court May 25 for a status conference.

Herald question of the day Should more extensive background checks be conducted on people seeking to adopt children? o Yes |o No | o No opinion Go to: to place your vote Herald surveys are unscientific

Sukhjit Purewal can be reached at 646-4494 or


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