Mom of 8 pleads not guilty in medical child abuse
ORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 44-year-old mother at the center of an investigation into medical child abuse entered a not guilty plea Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Kate G. Parker was arraigned on a 43-count secret indictment that was filed April 1, 2014. KOIN 6 News first reported Parker’s arrest Tuesday at her residence in Grants Pass, Ore. She was transported from Josephine County to the Multnomah County Detention Center Thursday.
The indictment charges Parker with 24 counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, four counts of first-degree assault, one count of child abandonment, four counts of computer crime, four counts of identity theft, five counts of witness tampering and one count of recklessly endangering another.
Court documents reveal one of Parker’s biological sons and two adopted girls were injured as a result of what officials called unnecessary surgeries. Investigators said Parker knowingly and intentionally caused “serious physical injury” to the children by making false and or misleading statements to medical professionals so they would administer medical treatment.
Investigators now believe those surgeries and medical procedures were unnecessary.
KOIN 6 News has learned that Parker and her husband, who has not been criminally charged, have seven biological children, two of which are now adults. The couple’s five other biological children range from 8-14 years old.
Officials told KOIN 6 News Parker and her husband adopted two girls from the Ukraine. The adoption was through an agency that helps families adopt children with Down syndrome.
Officials said one of the adopted girls, now 4 years old, was “re-homed.” The grand jury indicted Parker on one count of child abandonment because officials said she deserted the girl in Nov. 2012 by “re-homing” the child and not taking the proper steps to surrender parental rights and did not notify state officials.
A man who identified himself as Parker’s twin brother attended Friday’s hearing. He only gave his first name as Curt. He said Friday was the first time he had seen his sister in 15 years.
“I’m not going to go into any detail about the case,” Curt said. “I’m just trying to respect the case.”
The grand jury indicted Parker on four counts of computer crime because prosecutors claim she knowingly used a computer to obtain money deceitfully through online donations sites between July 2011 and August 2013 . Investigators said some of the posts about Parker, her family and her children’s medical conditions were written specifically with misleading information so people would be compelled to make online donations.
Officials have identified several people who made donations to Parker’s cause. A specific dollar amount has not been released by investigators, but one website KOIN 6 News has confirmed was a site used for donations shows more than $2,000 was raised.
The four counts of identity theft are a result of Parker allegedly using the names, photos and personal identification of her children in a way that defrauded others without the children’s knowledge.
The four counts of witness tampering stem from allegations that Parker coached, or induced, her children to offer false testimony, or asked them to withhold testimony to state investigators during an official proceeding between September and October 2013.
The recklessly endangering charge is based on allegations Parker engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk of serious physical injury one of her sons.
Officials working the case declined to comment on potential motives, citing the ongoing investigation. However, Mike Trent, a former Harris County, Texas prosecutor, who has prosecuted two medical child abuse cases, said these types of crimes are not compulsive behaviors, they are done with intent. Trent, who is not affiliated with the Parker case, said any time a person lies to, or misleads, a doctor so unnecessary medical procedures will be performed on the guardian’s children is a deliberate act, especially when they seek donations from the community.
“Just like you rob a bank to get money, this is medically abusing your child to either get the attention or financial support that you want,” Trent said.
The indictment shows 10 people testified before the grand jury. Tiffany Reed, who spoke to KOIN 6 News earlier this week, said she reported Parker’s alleged behavior to police and later testified before the grand jury.
Reed said she met Parker several years ago in an online support group after Parker reached out to her.
“For me, it was extremely tough. My No. 1 priority was that the kids remain safe and get justice,” said Reed. “But at the same time, Kate was my friend and I still care about Kate and I don’t know what changed in her.”
Judge John A. Wittmayer presided over Friday’s arraignment. Parker’s court-appointed attorney for the day, Thomas MacNair, entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the Grants Pass mother for each of the counts she faces. Parker did not make any comments aside from answering the judge’s questions and confirming her name was correctly listed on the indictment.
Gene Evans, the communications director for Oregon Department of Human Services issued the following statement when KOIN 6 News inquired about Parker and the current status of her children.
Information related to child welfare cases is protected under state and federal privacy laws to protect minor children. In addition, there is a criminal investigation in process at this time.
There is no information DHS can release about Katherine Parker or the children.
Parker’s next court date is scheduled for May 16. A tentative trial date was also set for May 19.