ADOPTED BOY SLAIN PARENTS OF 17 ACCUSED OF ABUSE

Date: 1986-10-30

Philadelphia Daily News

A couple charged with child abuse in the death of an adopted 13-year-old boy lived in a bus with 17 children, police said.

Police ruled the death yesterday of Dominick Joseph "Andrew" Diehl, 13, a homicide after an autopsy showed he died of acute head trauma, said Sgt. S.W. Summerlin. The commonwealth's attorney's office was expected to file further charges against the boy's parents today, he said.

The parents, Michael Diehl, 41, and Karen Diehl, 36, were arrested Friday and charged with felony child abuse. Diehl also was charged with malicious assault. They were being held under a total of $35,000 bond.

According to a search warrant, Diehl told police he had been tying the boy to the floor of the bus for about a month and beating him with a wooden switch. He said the child had handcuffs on one hand and a hose clamp on the other hand.

When paramedics found Andrew in the bus Friday, his hands and feet were swollen and his buttocks had open sores, the warrant said. Police seized ropes, a homemade whip, a wooden stick and a diary from the bus, it said.

The other children - four who were born to the Diehls and 12 adopted - were placed in foster homes after their parents' arrest.

The Diehls described Andrew as difficult and disruptive, said Lt. J.W. Pritchard.

Andrew was born in Minneapolis and lived in a Chicago slum before he was adopted by the Diehls about five years ago.

The Diehls left their home in Post Falls, Idaho, two years ago and began traveling around the country, Pritchard said. "Apparently, they traveled to spread the word of the Lord," he said.

They appeared on "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network in March.

Diehl said Monday that he and his wife were not ashamed of the way they treated their children and that God had guided their actions.

"I can stand before my God with a clear conscience," Diehl told the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star of Norfolk.

Diehl said he quit his job as a carpenter to become a full-time father and since 1982 has supported the family with $2,200 a month in subsidies from adoption agencies.

The Diehls' attorney, Paul E. Sutton II, said the parents "are in a serious state of grief and also very distressed."

Since March, the Diehls had been living in a school bus in various Virginia Beach campgrounds with the 17 children, ages 2 to 17. Some of the adopted children are physically disabled or emotionally disturbed.

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