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Seabeck Woman Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in Foster Son's Death


Seabeck Woman Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in Foster Son's Death

By Josh Farley (Contact)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

PORT ORCHARD -- A Seabeck woman who has been held on homicide by abuse charges since August 2006 has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of her foster son, according to attorneys familiar with the case.

Kimberly Ann Forder, 45, once charged with the homicide by abuse of 8-year-old Christopher Forder, agreed to the plea arrangement late Thursday afternoon and will be sentenced in Kitsap County Superior Court Feb. 29.

Prosecutors say they felt accounts by witnesses they slated to put on the stand varied too widely and ultimately would have proved a liability at trial.

"We were facing some serious inconsistencies in the stories we were told," Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said. "We thought it would be best to resolve the case now with a plea."

The 8-year-old died of pneumonia Nov. 24, 2002 at the family's Seabeck-area home, but Kitsap County Sheriff's detectives suspected abuse and neglect played a part in the death.

Prosecutors didn't issue any charges until late August 2006, when Forder, whose family worked as independent missionaries in the African nation of Liberia, returned to the U.S. for medical treatment.

The state had contended Christopher Forder's death had been at least partly caused by harsh discipline, abuse and neglect. The Forders contended he suffered from "reactive detachment disorder," scratching his skin and throwing himself into walls.

Forder faces a standard sentence between 21 and 27 months in prison, but has already served 18 months at the county jail. Given that the jail lops off up to a third of a sentence for good behavior, she may walk following her sentencing hearing.

"I would've liked something better," Forder's attorney, Roger Hunko, said of the plea deal. "But she's already done the time."

Hunko said prosecutors had wrongly relied on the testimony of the Forder's two daughters, who'd agreed to testify on behalf of the state.

"Frankly, I believe the state should have known the girls were lying from day one," Hunko said.

Hunko said through the plea, Forder admitted, "she knew (Christopher) was sick (with pneumonia) and she should've called 911 but she didn't."

Accepting that responsibility was a goal of prosecutors, said deputy prosecuting attorney Kelly Montgomery, who handled the case.

"Christopher Forder had a voice today," Montgomery said. "And he's never had a voice before."

After she had been jailed, Forder's husband, Robert, and her seven foster children had reportedly stayed in Liberia until December, when Robert Forder dropped the children at a Liberian orphanage. They were returned to Washington state by the U.S. State Department, and have been adopted into homes, a state Department of Social and Health Services spokesperson said recently.

2008 Feb 21