Adoptive Teenager Recounts Childhood of Abuse
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A fan of the Miami Heat and Chinese fried rice, a teenager named Ray is making up for lost time.
They "slept on a floor," said Ray's attorney, Ted Babbitt. "These children never saw a bed in their entire life until they were rescued."
That is just some of the conditions Babbitt and co-counsel Howard Talenfeld described. They represent Ray and nine other special needs kids who were found in 2007 when police raided the Port St. Lucie home of Judith Leekin.
Leekin was found guilty of fraud and child abuse in an adoption scam that she admitted was done for profit.
The adopted children were found emaciated and handcuffed after Leekin tried to abandon one of them at a mall. The girl, who had never been allowed outside until that day, was able to provide police with her address in Port St. Lucie.
"They were literally starved by the time they were found," said Babbitt. "They were emaciated. They were fed the same thing every day, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, day after day after day."
The children, now rescued, are filing suit. They claim the city of New York, which facilitated the adoptions, allowed Leekin to create four phony aliases and keep the children caged like animals.
"At night they were handcuffed," said Babbitt. "They were zip-tied together and if they had to go to the bathroom, they soiled themselves, because they were not allowed to move."
A statement from New York City's Administration for Children's Services reads, in part:
"Although Ms. Leekin moved to Florida with the adoptees in 1996 and lived there continuously until her crimes were uncovered in 2007, the New York City Administration for Children's Services has made clear its intention to work with these young people and their guardians, to best provide them with appropriate services and assistance here in New York City -- such as housing, educational, vocational, medical and/or mental health services. The city intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit."
Babbitt and Talenfeld said New York City has not even offered to fly the children back.
"I feel bad that my brothers and sisters have been abused, by weapons and knives," said Ray, 18.
He has never had dental care, has scoliosis, rickets and post-traumatic stress. He is aware that he deserved so much better.
"These children look back at their childhood as a nightmare," said Babbitt.
Leekin is at the Broward Correctional Facility. Her child abuse sentence is 20 years. Her fraud sentence is an additional 11 years.
A major mystery surrounding Leekin remains unsolved. A little boy put in her care was last seen in 1999. Cadaver dogs have searched three different properties on the Treasure Coast looking for his body.