ACT summary of Sasha Bignell case
Victim of Attachment Therapy
Abandonment and Rescue at age 11
Note: The following account has been prepared from press reports, personal interviews, trial transcripts, and other public records.
Sasha is a Ukrainian boy who was adopted at age 7, along with a girl, 4, by Minnesota couple Jeffrey and Michelle Bignell.
The Bignells claim Sasha (his Ukrainian nickname) was violent; that he had trouble adjusting to their family's structure and attempted to run away several times. Michelle Bignell said Sasha would fight her when she would hold the boy for hours during his rages.
In 2003, the Bignells took 9-year-old Sasha to a Village Inn restaurant in Wyoming, MN, where they handed him off to David and Glenda Kinghorn, strangers they hooked up with on the Internet who took in children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The Kinghorns took Sasha to their farm near Meadowlands, MN, which housed 13 other children, only two of which were their biological children. Because they were unlicensed foster parents, the Kinghorns moved in 2004 to Arkansas, a state with more accommodating laws.
The Kinghorns claim Sasha's bad behaviors continued. Glenda claimed Sasha fed her poodle to a Rottweiler and that the family brought in an exorcist for Sasha. Sasha later told his lawyer that it he had been abused by the Kinghorns, being punched and burned with boiling water. With one bathroom, six girls slept in on room, five boys in another. Minnesota authorities couldn't identify where all the children came from.
After Sasha left the Kinghorm home, David Kinghorn began a 10-year prison sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl placed in their care.
The Kinghorns placed Sasha in a psychiatric hospital where he was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. When the Kinghorns abandoned Sasha in the facility, Jeff Bignell picked up the boy and flew him back to the Ukraine in April 2005.
When Bignell failed to get the adoption annulled, he put Sasha in a short-term psychiatric hospital and returned to the United States. Sasha's guardian ad litem, Julie Friedrich, wrote: "According to the Bignells, they never abandoned (Sasha) because they never told him they would be back."
When an American missionary learned about Sasha situation, he notified the US embassy. It took authorities about a year to clear the way for Sasha, who holds dual citizenship, to return to Minnesota.
Sasha lives in the Northwood Children's Services home. His attorney Pat Zenner reports that Sasha is doing well in school; that he is bright, has a good sense of humor and is well thought of as a leader.
Sasha's request to visit with his sister was denied by the Bignells.
“End of Sasha's second chance,” by Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune, 8 Jan 2007.
“Progress and Hope, But Still No Family: Adopted Boy Who Was Returned to Ukraine is Still in Duluth Facility,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, 9 Dec 2007.