DSS: Man admits to tying up boys; "Kids look like something you would see in a Third World country'

Date: 2006-07-18

Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC)
Author: MONICA MERCER and RACHEL E. LEONARD

A Lyman man accused of binding the hands of his three adoptive sons to prevent them from eating has admitted to tying the children to a bedpost, an investigator said, and his wife kept a prosthetic hand needed by one of the children stowed behind a television.

S.C. Department of Social Services investigator Brenda Sparks said during a court hearing Monday that Dennis Scott McCurry, 30, had admitted to binding the boys in the bedroom. McCurry's wife, Molly, 29, spoke briefly to family members, giving them permission to retrieve the prosthetic hand while the couple remain in jail.

Staying in DSS custody for now

The couple's three adoptive sons and one biological daughter will remain in DSS custody, for now, and undergo immediate physical and mental health evaluations, Family Court Judge Wesley Brown ordered Monday. The hearing was held to determine whether probable cause exists to keep the children under an emergency protective order.

Malnourished

Last week, Spartanburg County sheriff's deputies charged the McCurrys with three counts each of intent to inflict great bodily injury upon a minor. According to law enforcement reports, the boys, ages 5, 7, and 8, were severely malnourished and weak.

"These kids look like something you would see in a Third World country laying on a street corner," Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said after Monday's hearing. "It was deplorable; it was absolutely horrible."

The couple's 10-year-old daughter appeared to be in good health but was taken into DSS custody after her parents were placed in jail.

Two family members are seeking custody of the couple's biological daughter. No one came forward during court Monday to petition for custody of the three boys, although Wright said one licensed foster-care couple has expressed interest in taking the boys into their home and watched Monday's proceedings from the back of the courtroom.

Wright said the McCurrys had been collecting $325 per month in Social Security checks for each boy, whose father is dead. One of the boys required use of a prosthetic hand due to injuries from a car crash, Wright said.

"There's no reason for food not to be in that house," Wright said. "You can look at the parents and tell they have not missed many meals."

The McCurrys are being held without bond at the Spartanburg County Detention Facility. On Monday, Brown ordered that the Social Security payments to the boys be diverted from the McCurrys to whoever has custody of the children.

The boys' dad, 24-year-old Harley West, died in July 2004, after a car struck the bicycle he was riding. DSS officials said they haven't been able to find the boys' mother, Nina West.

Nina West's father, Freddy Justice, showed up at the hearing and said he had expected his daughter to be there since he had talked with her Sunday night.

"She was outraged," Justice said of his daughter's reaction when she found out the condition of her sons.

Justice said his daughter had seen the boys only sporadically since she and Harley West lost custody of the children three years ago and the boys went to live with the McCurrys. The Wests were having marriage problems and trying to reconcile at that time, he said.

After Harley West died, his wife just "lost it," Justice said, and gave up her quest for the return of the children.

But Myra Willis, Justice's girlfriend of four years, reiterated that Nina "loved those kids with all her heart," and that the McCurrys denied her requests for visits.

Packed courtroom

During the hearing, with the small courtroom packed full of family members, the McCurrys passed back and forth photographs that Spartanburg County sheriff's deputies took of the children after they were taken into protective custody last week. They silently stared at the photos and shook their heads when asked if they had any objection to the photographs being admitted into evidence.

Several family members sobbed softly, and some loudly like Beverly Roberts, Justice's sister and a great aunt to the three boys. Justice's outrage was apparent as well as he nervously shook his right leg throughout the hearing and held his sister's hand.

"You don't know how hard it was to hold me back," Justice said, adding that he was so upset over the boys' condition that he would "kill" the McCurrys if he had the chance.

Brown ruled that the children cannot immediately visit their parents. The children are also barred, for the time being, from visiting with other family members.

After the psychological exams are complete, a supplemental hearing will be held to determine whether visits are appropriate.

Brown declined to consider any child custody issues until standard examinations for prospective foster parents have been completed, including drug tests, criminal background checks and home visits. Further hearings might be needed to determine whether the children will be released from DSS custody and into foster care.

One family member seeking custody of the daughter is the girl's paternal grandmother, Elaine Cope.

"I love my granddaughter, and I want her home," she said as she left the courthouse.

Cope's attorney, Doug Brannon of Spartanburg, said after court that Cope was the girl's major caregiver until the McCurrys adopted the three boys. At that point, Molly McCurry became a stay-at-home mom, and Cope's contact with the girl was drastically reduced.

Molly McCurry's sister, Holly Johnson, is also petitioning for custody of the 10-year-old girl.

Monica Mercer can be reached at 562-7215 or monica.mercer@shj.com.

Rachel E. Leonard can be reached at 562-7230 or rachel.leonard@shj.com.

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