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Nasons await sentence (mentions Debbie Nason)


By Jim Hollon

Prosecutor Kathleen Payne-Pruitt took an early aggressive stance in pressing for heavy sentences in the case that lead to charges of abuse, negligence, manslaughter, forgery and racketeering. It all centered around the Nason's custody and care of up to 80 children at a 33-room farmhouse near Sisters.

After a trial that dragged on for more than a year, they were acquitted of mistreatment and negligence involving the children, and the jury deadlocked on a manslaughter charge against Diane involving the death of Jason Nason who died of Shigella. They also were acquitted of manslaughter in the deaths of two other children.

The Nasons were convicted of forging signatures to medical certificates and adoption papers during a time in 1991 when they were trying to send some of the children to new homes. It was a time when Diane's health was failing and when backers were withdrawing financial support.

Early in the hearing on Monday defense attorneys Valerie Wright and David Glenn objected to presentence investigation letters which they said contained errors and matters that had not been brought out during the trial and therefore had not had the test of cross examination. Prosecutor Kathleen Payne-Pruitt countered that "they are not errors, but differences in interpretation."

She also told Judge Michael Sullivan in connection with sentencing, "This court is not limited to what came out in trial, but must consider everything heard."

Judge Sullivan overruled the objections.

Payne-Pruitt said she would call two witnesses. The first, and only one heard on Monday, was Donna Velvick, director of Hope House in Idaho, a woman who has adopted several of the Nason children. Payne-Pruitt focused on the forgery of medical documents which claimed several children to be in good health, documents with signatures that were supposedly those of doctors.

Under Payne-Pruitt's questioning, Velvick said that some of the children feared Diane Nason. She said Debbie, a 12-year-old with Down's Syndrome, fears women with black hair. Diane Nason has black hair.

Velvick said that four of the seven Nason children who are at Hope House were in need of medical attention when they arrived, but that she was not aware of it at first because reports arriving with them did not indicate any serious problems.

The sentencing hearing was expected to run well into Tuesday and perhaps later, depending upon time taken for cross examinations, defense witnesses and closing arguments.

[ Note: Hope House http://www.ahome2come2.org ]

1996 Feb 14