Abusive adoptive mom's kids seek money for treatment

Date: 2009-04-30

ANDREW ABRAMSON

WEST PALM BEACH — With his adoptive mother preparing to serve more than two decades in prison, 18-year-old Ray no longer has to endure the severe abuse that plagued and defined his childhood.

Yet after being confined with nine other mentally-challenged children for nearly his entire life, shackled to others, beaten at his mother's will, eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and never seeing the sunlight, having Judith Leekin locked away in prison won't be enough to rehabilitate Ray.

That's why attorneys sued Thursday, arguing that the city of New York should be responsible for the victims' lifelong care.

"I was abused, my brothers and sisters were abused, and I felt like I was nothing after I left the house," said Ray, whose last name was withheld, during a news conference at the law office of Ted Babbitt.

Babbitt and co-counsel Howard Talenfeld of Fort Lauderdale said the city of New York should provide the victims with everything from neurological and medical care to lifetime behavioral counseling, years of adult education, vocational training and life skills coaching.

Leekin, who moved to Port St. Lucie after adopting her foster children, collected $1.68 million.

The attorneys said New York's Administration for Children's Services did no background check on Leekin and never checked on the children, even after a newborn in Leekin's care died in 1988.

While no monetary amount was included in the lawsuit, Babbitt estimated it would cost around $15 million each to provide the victims with what they need.

"This is one of the worst child welfare disasters in the history of this country," Talenfeld said. "She adopted these children using four phony aliases that did not exist, and that the city of New York failed to verify. These children were imprisoned in her captivity, some for as long as 14-to-21 years."

Leekin was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Florida courts on abuse charges as well as 11 years in New York for federal fraud charges.

Of the 10 victims, two are minors and remain in foster care, five are in group homes, two are living on their own, and one is homeless after serving time in jail for assault.

~andrew_abramson@pbpost.com

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