FATHER ACCUSED OF CHILD ABUSE SAYS HIS CONSCIENCE IS CLEAR

Date: 1986-10-28

Author: The Associated Press

Dateline: VIRGINIA BEACH

An adoptive father charged with felony child abuse of a 13-year-old youth says he and his wife are proud of their commitment to their 17 children.

Michael Diehl, 41, was charged with child abuse and malicious assault stemming from injuries that left Andrew Diehl, 13, hospitalized in a coma.

"If I didn't believe we were right, I would not have my peace with the Lord because He does not reward injustice," Deihl told The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star during an interview at the city jail yesterday.

Diehl and his wife, Karen, 36, were arrested Friday after paramedics found Andrew bruised and unconscious at Indian Cove Campground. The couple lived there with their 17 children -- 13 of them adopted -- in an old school bus.

Authorities said Andrew Diehl was not breathing and his heart had stopped when paramedics arrived at the campground at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

The boy was listed in critical condition in Virginia Beach General Hospital and had not regained consciousness yesterday, police Lt. J.W. Pritchard said.

Diehl refused to talk specifically about the couple's case or what caused Andrew's injuries. Instead, Diehl spoke about his faith and how and how he and his wife feel God guides their actions.

"Karen and I can stand on our feet and feel proud of our commitment to all of our children," he said. "But for the time being, I can stand before my God with a clear conscience.

"Karen and I . . . are not ashamed of any way in which we have treated our children. The time will come when we can show why."

Mrs. Diehl, charged with felony child neglect, declined to be interviewed. She was being held in lieu of $10,000 bond.

Diehl was being held in lieu of $25,000 bond.

In the Diehls' tiny northwest Idaho hometown of Post Falls, Steve and Christine Hamman said the Diehls were their best friends.

Mrs. Diehl called the Hamman couple Friday, Hamman said.

"She told us that Andrew was running down the aisle of the bus when he fell and struck his head on a . . . box," Hamman said yesterday. "Then she discovered Andrew wasn't breathing and called for help."

The Diehls, during yesterday's hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, told Judge J. Davis Reed III they had retained Paul Sutton II as their attorney. Sutton said he had not discussed the case with the couple. A preliminary hearing for the couple will be held Monday.

State Department of Human Services officials have placed the couple's 16 other children in foster homes, police said.

A hearing will be held Thursday to determine whether the children should be removed from the couple's custody.

The family settled in Virginia Beach in March after traveling the country for two years. They said they decided to stay in Virginia Beach in hope of finding a permanent home.

"You couldn't pay us $100,000 to leave Virginia Beach, because this is where we have our hearts," Diehl said.

The Diehls and their children appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club" March 27. Diehl said he quit his job as a carpenter four years ago after the Lord called him "to be a full-time father." He said the family lives on subsidies and donations.

The Diehls adopted Andrew in 1982. He was the second of 13 children the couple have adopted, said Chris Boykin, executive director of a private adoption agency in Post Falls.

Ms. Boykin said most of the children are emotionally troubled or have physical handicaps.

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