Adopted son defends couple accused of child abuse, trafficking

Date: 2006-02-04

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. -- One of 18 children removed from the care of a couple now on trial for child abuse and child trafficking defended them in court and told jurors that he wanted to return to their home.

"Y'all make it seem like my Mom and Dad were bad for doing all this," the 16-year-old boy said Thursday about his adopted parents Debra and Tom Schmitz.

The Schmitzes are accused of privately adopting special needs children in order to draw government subsidies and beating the children with wooden paddles, locking them in metal cages and forcing them to dig their own graves.

The jury deliberated for about two hours Friday afternoon and planned to continue Monday.

The boy, called as a witness by Tom Schmitz's attorney, said that the children living in the home were "out of control."

The adopted boy did confirm some of the accusations against the couple. He testified that he told prosecutors in a pretrial interview that he saw a child forced to strip nude and sleep on the floor and seeing a child locked in the storm cellar.

Authorities removed all 18 children from their home in Gibson County in 2004, nine of which were adopted, one was a biological child and the others were placed in the home.

In the fourth day of testimony, Judge Clayburn Peebles reinstated two dropped charges against Debra Schmitz, who now faces 19 child abuse charges and one child trafficking charge.

Tom Schmitz is charged on five counts of child abuse and one count of child trafficking.

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