Cleveland couple lose parental rights to five Authorities move disabled children after 6th one dies

Relates to:
Date: 2001-03-03

CINDY HORSWELL
Houston Chronicle

LIBERTY - Claiming their right against self-incrimination, a Cleveland couple declined to testify Friday at a hearing where they lost their parental rights to five handicapped children they had adopted.

The children had been removed from the home of Brian and Edith Beebe last year after a sixth adopted child died March 17. Eight-year-old Joseph Beebe's death was ruled a homicide resulting from "battered child syndrome."

State District Judge Chap Cain concluded the hearing by terminating parental rights.

In closing statements, the attorney for the children, Joe Warren, told Cain: "I'm asking for these children's lives. Don't send them back to these people."

He added that the couple had failed to pay the court-ordered support for the children since they were placed with foster parents.

Daniel Bayless, an attorney for the Beebes, argued that his clients had never received formal written notice from the court to make the payments. He also said there was no proof that the parents had harmed the children.

At an earlier hearing on protective custody, Edith Beebe, 44, a homemaker, and her husband testified that she sometimes punished her children with a "holy rod" but never abused them. She said she had swatted Joseph three times on the bottom the day he died, but never bruised him.

She said she took him to a hospital after he became ill and quit breathing while sitting in her lap as she read him a story.

Her husband, Brian, 54, an air freight manager at Bush Intercontinental Airport, was at work when the boy died.

Dr. Lyman Brown, the forensic pathologist who examined Joseph's body, identified photos that showed the child's body was severely bruised from his back to the middle of his thighs. Calling the death an "absolute homicide," he also testified Friday that he found evidence of repeated bruising over a period of time.

Joseph was one of triplets adopted by the Beebes in 1994 from Children's Protective Services. The agency had taken custody of Joseph and his siblings, Amy and Jacob, after they were born addicted to drugs and suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome.

The other three children adopted as infants are: Jared, 8, who was severely malnourished when CPS took custody after a drug raid at 7 months old; Abigale, 5, who is legally blind and came from another adoption agency; and Jonathon, 9, who suffers from dwarfism and spina bifida and also came from another agency.

Another attorney for the Beebes, Richard Burroughs, told Cain that he advised his clients not to testify because of criminal proceedings pending against them. They have pleaded not guilty to four charges each of injury to a child. Each charge is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.

Three church friends of the Beebes testified that they were good parents and that no bruising had ever been visible on the children. They said the children were frail from their illnesses and sometimes got bruises and scrapes from "playing rough."

However, on cross examination after viewing photos of sores and bruises on four of the children, they acknowledged that clothing could have concealed bruises.

No date has been set for the criminal trial.

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