exposing the dark side of adoption
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Author: CYNTHIA BURTON, Daily News Staff Writer

A Montgomery County couple were charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter last night in connection with the alleged beating death of 4-year-old Carlos Beltran, whom they had brought here from El Salvador to adopt.

Carlos was found dead last Friday in the Franconia Township home of Christine and Peter Moyer. The Moyers said he died in his sleep, but an autopsy showed the child died from injuries resulting from beatings that occurred within 36 to 24 hours of his death.

The Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth took custody of the couple's two biological children, Laura, 4, and Jenny, 2, last Tuesday, according to Robert Kerns, the Moyers' attorney. Kerns said the children were taken to an undisclosed location for medical examinations, although, he said, police had seen them last Saturday and there were no signs of abuse. ''. . . to me that's a little strange," Kerns said.

He said the couple hoped to regain custody by Christmas.

Officials from the county agency would neither confirm or deny Kerns' statement.

District Justice Grant Mussleman, in Souderton, set cash bail at $25,000 each and released the Moyers pending their posting a Bucks County relative's property next week. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Dec. 31, Kerns said.

The couple came voluntarily to their arraignment. Christine, who walks with a limp from injuries sustained in a car accident that killed her first husband, and Peter, a slim, bearded self-employed insurance broker, sat quietly during their 10-minute hearing and were hustled out a back door of the district justice's office.

Other charges against the Moyers include aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children.

Carlos had only been in the United States since April and spoke little English, said a neighbor, who asked not to be identified. The neighbor said the boy was unusually quiet and would stand alone and watch while other neighborhood children played.

The white house on Mininger Road, where Carlos had lived with the Moyers, has a simple Christmas wreath on the door. It is next to a small cornfield.

The quiet, rural lane should have proved a peaceful haven for the toddler, who came here from war-torn El Salvador. But his life here, according to the county coroner, was also violent.

Dr. Theodore A. Garcia said Carlos died as the result of injuries sustained in beatings that could have occurred 24 to 36 hours before his death. However, Garcia said he believed the child died within a few hours of the last beating.

Garcia said that during the autopsy at North Penn Hospital he also found older bruises on the boy's body, indicating a pattern of child abuse.

According to Montgomery County detectives, Peter Moyer called police last Friday about 11:30 a.m. and reported that Carlos had died in his sleep.

The Moyers had petitioned to adopt the boy, but had not completed the process, said Kerns. Kerns said the family had filed the adoption petition in Montgomery County.

The Moyers "are good people," who had wanted to help the child, whose home was in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital, Kern said. "They wanted to do something that was right," when they decided to adopt a child from a warring nation, Kerns said.

The state Department of Welfare, which acts as a watchdog over private adoption agencies, said yesterday it is launching an investigation of the adoption agency that arranged Carlos' adoption. Under state regulations, an agency is supposed to visit the child and family at least three times before allowing the adoption to become final.

Oscar Vance Jr., chief of the Montgomery County detectives, said the adoption was arranged through a Huntingdon Valley agency, which he would not identify.

1984 Dec 21