NASON DAUGHTER CONTINUES TESTIMONY AT CUSTODY HEARING

Date: 1992-08-21

Author: GORDON OLIVER - of the Oregonian Staff

A daughter of Dennis and Diane Nason continued her description Thursday of alleged child abuse during her eight years in the huge rural household near Sisters.

The woman, who now lives in Portland, was adopted by the Nasons when she was 10. She had testified in Deschutes County Juvenile Court Wednesday that she had been physically abused by both of her parents and sexually abused by Dennis Nason. Her testimony Thursday included more specific examples of the alleged abuse to herself and other children.

Tim Vanagas, a lawyer for the Nasons, tried to cast doubt on the 27-year-old woman's allegations by pointing out inconsistencies in dates and other details between the woman's statements in court and her earlier statements to investigators.

In one instance, the woman's testimony Thursday differed from a statement she had made in court the previous day. She had said Wednesday that she did not think her parents had used a cattle prod to discipline any other children except her. But Thursday, she testified that two of her brothers had been shocked with a battery-powered prod.

She said that the presence of a cattle prod as a court exhibit Wednesday brought back memories about the alleged abuse of her brothers.

Also Thursday, the woman testified that her parents had once locked two of their sons in a freezer overnight. She said under cross-examination by Vanagas that she had not seen the boys enter or leave the freezer and had never reported the incident in the past.

The custody hearing will continue Monday. The state Children's Services Division is asking Circuit Judge Thomas Mosgrove to continue the state's protective custody over 12 Nason children who were removed by authorities from the Nason home in January.

The Nasons want the state to take permanent custody of their eight adopted children. And the Nasons want Mosgrove to give them full custody of three biological children, all teen-agers, and a 2-year-old adopted grandson.

The custody hearing could last up to six weeks and include testimony from dozens of Nason children. The couple has raised more than 80 adopted and natural children, including many disabled children from around the world.

The Nasons, who sat silently in the courtroom's front row during the first three days of the hearing, have hired five attorneys for themselves and some of their children. Vanagas said legal fees could run as high as $250,000, eating up the entire equity from the pending sale of the Nason home.

No criminal charges have been filed against the Nasons, although Vanagas said he expects such charges.

The daughter who testified this week presented a bleak picture of life in a home that once was the subject of a television movie and a glowing ``60 Minutes'' profile. The only times that tension and abuse subsided, she said, were when church groups or other outsiders paid a visit.

During those times, ``everyone was just happy and getting along,'' said the woman. ``Everything was just fine.''

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

Once, following an argument with her parents when she was 17, she said her mother ordered her to leave the home. When she returned, ``I had to get on my hands and knees and beg to go back into the house.''

The woman said she had anonymously called CSD while in high school to report abuse at the home. The agency sent a caseworker but took no action. She said she called the agency again in September because she wanted to protect children who remained in the home from abuse.

Detective Edward Norgaard of the Deschutes County sheriff's office also testified Thursday about his investigation of an abuse allegation in January 1991. Norgaard said he saw bruises on the face of a Nason child with Down syndrome.

Norgaard said the parents told him that Dennis Nason had spanked the boy on his bottom, causing him to run off and crash into a post that bruised his face. The state did not bring child abuse charges against the Nasons at that time.

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