US couple suspected of abusing adopted Russian children pleads not guilty

Date: 2010-10-09

NEW YORK, October 8 (Itar-Tass) -- Edelwina and Steven Leschinsky, a U.S. couple suspected of abusing adopted children from Russia, plead not guilty, a lawyer said.

In his words, the court will hear case merits and the defense will insist on the not guilty verdict.

Another lawyer said that the couple might admit culpability and make a deal with the judge for a quick trial and a milder punishment. The trial will last for months in case of full-scale investigation. Edelwina asked for a third lawyer on Thursday.

The next hearing is scheduled for October 14.

Edelwina Leschinsky, 46, and Steven Leschinsky, 43, who live in Larimer County, have both been charged with one count of felony child abuse along with four other related charges. They were arrested by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office in March. According to police statements, the Leschinskys adopted three biological sisters from Russia four to five years ago. One of the sisters walked into Kinard Junior High with a black eye on January 21, 2010. Police were called in. The girl, who is now 13, said she received it from a snow boot thrown by her mother. As investigators delved further, they say they discovered abuse that dates back to the girls' arrival in the U.S.

After interviewing the other two girls, who are 12 and 14 years old, investigators discovered various forms of "punishment" administered by the parents. One girl told deputies the Leschinskys made them do literally hundreds of pushups while a board with nails sat just below their thighs. They also told investigators that Edelwina Leschinsky would order them to hit each other in the head. In one instance, deputies say the parents made one girl run more than 45 miles in three days because she chewed her food too much. Another common punishment, according to police, was "fisties," which is when the girls would have to remain in a push-up position while putting their fists on the wood floor. One girl said she remained in that position for 40 minutes.

A doctor who examined one of the girls said she had significant deformity in her left hand and suffered from "serious bodily injury."

Eduardo Cristobal, Edelwina Leschinsky's father, told 9NEWS his family moved to the United States from the Philippines in 1968. He says he spent three months with the Leschinskys at one point and "didn't see anything."

"Spanking, so what?" he said. "We loved the kids."

The Russian Education and Science Ministry said in late July that an inter-country adoption agreement had been basically coordinated with the United States.

“The sides generally agreed on the agreement text,” the ministry said. “The document will now be analyzed by departments in both countries.”

The negotiators were guided with the presidential statement of June 24, 2010, “which expressed the readiness for ensuring rights, security and prosperity of adopted children,” the ministry said.

Russia and the United States may sign an adoption agreement in the near future, State Secretary – Deputy Education and Science Minister Yuri Sentyurin said a month earlier.

“Some 80,000 Russian children have been adopted by foreign families in recent years. The United States leads by the number of children adopted from Russia,” he said. “However, adopted children encounter a number of problems. Some of the foreign parents are simply not ready for the enlargement of their families.”

Thus, the inter-country adoption agreement will add an element of stability, he said. “For instance, the agreement will help regulate and control the activity of adoption intermediaries,” he noted.

A total of 3,800 Russian children were adopted by foreigners in 2009, including 1,432 in the United States. At the same time, the number of foreigners wishing to adopt children from Russia dropped by 60% in the past six years, and the number of Russian families wishing to adopt a child grew by 27%


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