exposing the dark side of adoption
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Attorneys in the child custody case involving Dennis and Diane Nason met privately Wednesday to try to work out a settlement that would end Juvenile Court hearings during which Nason children have accused their parents of physical and sexual abuse.

Attorneys representing the state Children's Services Division, Deschutes County, the Nasons and 12 children hope to bring an agreement into court Thursday morning. If they don't, the hearings that began last week will continue.

None of those involved in negotiations would talk about the issues under discussion, but some said they were optimistic that the costly and emotionally traumatic hearings would come to an end.

The state is asking the court to keep 12 Nason children who were removed from the home in January under protective CSD custody.

The Nasons want to regain custody of three biological children and a grandson whose father is a biological son and whose mother is an adopted daughter. The Sisters residents also want the CSD to take permanent custody of eight adopted children between the ages of 4 and 16.

In a related issue, Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan said Wednesday that he would not rule out the possibility of manslaughter charges against the Nasons. Dugan made the statement after a former Nason son testified that the couple apparently had failed to provide medical care to two sick children before the children died in 1985.

Dugan said a grand jury has been convened and has heard testimony on child-abuse allegations involving the Nasons. He predicted that the criminal investigation could take another five months but said criminal charges were likely.

The former Nason son, now a Marine corporal who has been adopted by another family, testified this week about the deaths of two children in the home in 1985. He said he did not believe the Nasons had sought medical treatment for Jason, a 2-year-old, and Jodi, who was 3, during their illnesses.

Both died of shigella, a viral infection often associated with unsanitary living conditions. The Marine corporal also testified that Diane Nason would sometimes smear feces in Jason's face as punishment for toilet-training accidents. Jason was born with Down syndrome, and Jodi had cerebral palsy.

Dugan said the possibility of criminal charges was not an issue in discussions to settle the custody case. ``Those are two separate issues, and we have not been willing to mix them up,'' he said.

The negotiations began after five days of testimony in Judge Thomas Mosgrove's court from three adult Nason children. They described incidents of physical punishment that sometimes resulted in bruises and bloody noses. They also said Dennis and Diane Nason would sometimes deprive the children of food or water as a form of punishment and keep children with disabilities in locked rooms or even custom-built cages.

A 27-year-old daughter of the Nasons also testified that she had been sexually abused by Dennis Nason.

The Nasons have six biological children, but their household grew to a total of more than 80 children at various times through private adoptions.

1992 Aug 27