Old and young need protectors, not predators
Daily News Leader
Augusta County Supervisor Tom Sikes is absolutely justified in his concerns about Karen Diehl, now serving as associate director of Valley Program of Aging Services. We should all be concerned.
Diehl, as we have reported, served six years of a 31-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter, assault and battery, child neglect and abduction in connection with the death of her adopted 13-year-old son, Dominick, also known as Andrew.
Dominick/Andrew's death was preceded by torture, including beatings, being shackled naked with hose clamps and forced to consume his own feces and urine.
The boy was part of an extended "family" of 17 children that included four sired by Karen Diehl and her husband Michael, who is serving a 41-year sentence for first-degree murder, abduction, child neglect and simple assault at Augusta Correctional Center, and 12 other adopted children.
Avowed fundamentalist Christians, Karen and Michael Diehl and their biological and adopted children had traveled from Idaho to Virginia Beach, living in the school bus that served as their transportation. On a two-year trip to spread "the word of the Lord," the Diehls became the darlings of the media, appearing on evangelical Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson's television program "The 700 Club," and profiled in The Washington Post and The Virginian-Pilot.
In October, 1986, while living in a campground where they preached and held Bible study classes, Karen Diehl called the Virginia Beach Rescue Squad to report that Dominick/Andrew had "fallen" and "hit his head." After five days in a coma, the boy died of what had been determined to be blunt instrument trauma. During her 1987 trial, Karen Diehl admitted beating her adopted son repeatedly about the head and shoulders with a stick.
Karen Diehl was, by all accounts, a model prisoner, earning a bachelor's degree from Mary Baldwin College while in prison. She later earned a master's degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. By all accounts, she is also a model employee, and Valley Program for Aging Services has no intention of terminating her, even though she had not revealed details of her past during the interview/application process. It wasn't against "personnel policies" to do so.
We are glad Ms. Diehl appears to have rehabilitated herself. We do not believe she should be punished further. We also do not believe that rapists should be in charge of womens' shelters or pedophiles in charge of after-school programs.
Despite her model employee status, Diehl should not be in a position where she is in contact with the vulnerable, the weak, or those who might cause her patience to snap. Our elderly, our young, and our handicapped deserve protectors - not predators.