Date: 1990-05-02

Jim Haner
The Virginian-Pilot

Karen Diehl, sentenced to 31 years in the beating death of her adopted son, was ordered by a Circuit Court judge Tuesday to return to prison after an unsuccessful appeal of her 1987 conviction.

Diehl, who has already served 24 months of her sentence, must return to the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland by 5 p.m. today, Circuit Judge Alan E. Rosenblatt ruled.

Rosenblatt had allowed Diehl to remain free on bond until then because she has never failed to comply with a court order in the three years her case has been in the court system.

"She knows which way the cards lie in this situation, and she has never failed to honor an order of the court," said her attorney, Robert G. Morecock. "I have no doubt she will turn herself in."

Another appeal - this time to the state Supreme Court - was filed Monday.

Diehl was freed on $60,000 bail Sept. 21 while her attorneys argued before the Virginia Court of Appeals that Rosenblatt, the judge who presided at her trial, made a mistake in not removing a biased juror.

On April 3, the appeals court upheld Diehl's conviction by a 5-5 vote. Under appeals court rules, a tie vote automatically affirms the original verdict.

Diehl was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, abduction, assault and child neglect in the death of her adopted son, Dominick J. "Andrew" Diehl, 13. Her husband, Michael J. Diehl, 44, was convicted in a separate trial of premeditated murder, abduction, assault and child neglect. The appeals court upheld his 41-year sentence in October.

Andrew died Oct. 29, 1986, five days after he was found battered in a converted bus, where the Diehls lived with their 16 children - 12 of them adopted. The couple testified that Andrew died as they disciplined him. The discipline consisted of shackling the youngster to the floor of the bus, beating him repeatedly and forcing him to eat his own feces and urine.

Both of the Diehls unsuccessfully appealed their abduction convictions on the ground that parents can't be charged with kidnapping their own children. But the appeals court ruled that the abduction charge was proper because the Diehls chained Andrew.

Morecock said Karen Diehl would raise the issue again before the Supreme Court, along with her claims that Rosenblatt made a mistake in allowing television coverage of her trial and in not rejecting the biased juror.

Barring a successful appeal, Karen Diehl will be eligible for parole in about three years.

"She's been a model prisoner," Morecock said. "I think she's an excellent candidate for parole."


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