Des Moines couple with adoptive children charged with child endangerment
by Regina Zilbermints
Child endangerment charges have been filed against a Des Moines couple recognized last year by a national program aimed at drawing attention to children in need of safe and loving adoptive families.
The couple – Damien Christopher Stovall, 38, and Allonna Jannette Stovall, 37 – allegedly used a belt or wooden spoon to punish their children, according to a Des Moines police report. They are each charged with one count of child endangerment.
The charges were filed April 5, court records show. A jury trial has been scheduled for June 12.
“The one charge is not based on just once incident. It’s based on a series of events,” Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax said.
The Stovalls have seven children between 2 and 11 years old, authorities said. All of the children have been removed from the couple’s care, authorities said.
Damien Stovall is on paid leave from his job as an academic advisor at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, said Phil Roeder, district spokesman. Stovall has been with the district since October 2006 and earns $44,500 per year.
Placing an employee on paid administrative leave during a police investigation is standard procedure, Roeder said.
Police launched their investigation into the Stovalls on March 12 after a referral from the Iowa Department of Human Services. Someone at the children’s school contacted the agency with concerns, Halifax said.
Records filed in Polk County District Court say the couple are accused of “intentionally using unreasonable force and/or cruelty,” against two of their children, ages 6 and 7.
The Stovalls were recognized in September in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. after adopting four children. Three of the four adopted children are siblings, who the Stovalls kept from being separated by adopting them, according to a press release about the event. The couple were designated “2012 Angels in Adoption.”
The Stovalls could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Neither Allonna nor Damien Stovall has had any previous contact with law enforcement beyond a traffic ticket, a review of online court records shows.
“These are good, hardworking people,” said the couple’s attorney,Karmen Anderson. “They are caring, loving and spent their lives devoted to children and giving back to the community.”
In the past year, there have been at least two other high-profile cases in the Des Moines area of parents charged with crimes related to mistreating their children. In April 2012, a couple who had been living in a Des Moines mall with their nine children was arrested on charges ranging from neglect to sexual abuse.
In November, an Ankeny couple was arrested and charged with two counts each of false imprisonment and neglect or abandonment of a dependent person.