Pair charged with starving their children

Date: 2002-10-02

Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT)
Author: Geoffrey Fattah
Deseret News staff writer

PROVO -- Just weeks after a Springville couple were charged in the water overdose death of their adopted child, Utah County officials have filed criminal charges against another couple for allegedly starving their two adopted Russian children.

Teresa Hansen, 38, and Reed Hansen, 35, Saratoga Springs, have each been charged with two second-degree felony counts of child abuse/neglect and one class A misdemeanor count of child abuse.

Utah County attorney's criminal division chief, Sherry Ragan. said an investigation showed the couple allegedly were withholding food from the children as punishment for bad behavior. Medical exams showed the couple's adopted 4-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were severely malnourished.

"They were bad," Ragan said, adding the boy had lost 2 pounds over the past two years. According to the charges, Teresa and Reed Hansen withheld food from the children, as much as several days at a time, between July 2001 and February 2002, the time period selected for investigation.

Ragan said the case came to light when the couple took the two children to a pediatric doctor in Washington state, who specialized in treating orphans from Russia. Ragan said the doctor was so disturbed at the children's malnourished state that he immediately contacted Washington child and family officials, who in turn contacted the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

Prosecutors recently charged Jennete and Richard Killpack in the water intoxication death of their adopted 4-year-old daughter. The couple allegedly forced large amounts of water down the girl's throat as an apparent punishment for stealing a soft drink. An autopsy report showed that the girl died from swelling of the brain, brought on by excessive water, and asphyxiation.

The Killpacks have said they were acting on the advice of holding therapists at the Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem, who were treating the girl for a controversial condition known as reactive detachment disorder. The director of the center, Larry VanBloem, has denied giving the Killpacks any such advice.

But what now disturbs investigators is that there is evidence that the Hansens may have also been practicing alternative treatments for reactive detachment disorder with their two children.

"We really do feel strongly that that is the case," Utah County Lt. Jerry Monson said. "We found literature that they had that was along the lines of disciplinary-type books."

Cards from the Cascade Center for Family Growth were also found, but Monson said they do not believe the couple were clients.

A doctor's exam of the boy showed he was severely malnourished. "He was literally starving to death," Monson said.

There were also indications that the parents locked the children in the bathroom for long amounts of time. "He would be left in the bathroom locked in there for hours, overnight, without any bedding or clothing," Monson said.

The couple, Ragan said, have another adopted child and four biological children. The couple had been rearing the Russian orphans since December 2000.

All children, Ragan said, have been taken into state custody by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services. Monson said within days of being taken into state custody, the boy bounced back, indicating that his condition was not caused by some medical condition.

Officials say this isn't the first time Teresa Hansen has been charged with abuse. Court records show that May 15, 2001, Teresa Hansen pleaded no contest to a class A misdemeanor count of child abuse. At the time, the family was living in Alpine. Alpine police alleged that they found the adopted boy covered with bruises.

Court records show that Hansen pleaded no contest to the charge as part of a plea in abeyance deal, where the charge would be dismissed if she successfully completed probation. Records show that Hansen was to attend a review on her probation Nov. 11. A judge also ordered Hansen to take the boy to the doctor for monthly examinations.

The couple appeared in 4th District Court Tuesday to formally face the charges. Another hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 5.

Sheldon Carter, attorney for Reed Hansen, said they are contesting all allegations.

"We have some pretty strong medical evidence that can refute those allegations," he said.


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