Child abuse suspect surrenders
Indianapolis Star, The (IN)Child abuse suspect surrenders
Monroe County woman is accused of whipping kids, taping them to walls.
Author: TERRY HORNE AND TOM SPALDING TERRY.HORNE@INDYSTAR.COM
A 53-year-old Bloomington-area woman caring for 13 children is accused of abusing some of them, authorities say, by taping them to walls, whipping them with a tennis racket and even spinning one inside a running clothes dryer.
Diana Lynn Graves turned herself in Tuesday at the Monroe County Jail after being charged with three felony counts of child neglect. She faces an additional charge of being a habitual offender. If convicted of the neglect charges, she could face as much as 24 years in prison.
It's unclear how Graves, who had several aliases and a criminal record, gained custody of the children, authorities said.
Several of the children in her custody appeared to be from Eastern Europe, Asia and Ethiopia, Monroe County Sheriff's Detective Brad Swain said.
The neglect charges stemmed from an investigation that began in November, when a state child welfare case manager notified police that she had removed the 13 children from Graves' home.
Indiana Family and Social Services Administration officials would not discuss the status of the children now and declined to comment on the case, citing the state's confidentiality laws. Graves, who was released from jail Tuesday on $50,000 bond, could not be reached for comment.
The probe shocked Graves' neighbors, who recalled seeing the children playing on a backyard trampoline and a swing set.
"If I'd known that, I'd have been screaming and pulling down that back door to protect those children," said Peggy Bachman, whose condominium is behind Graves' home. "It just makes me cry."
In January, Swain interviewed a 13-year-old girl who had been living with Graves since May 2002.
Swain said the girl told him that several weeks earlier, she found a 7-year-old boy lying in a bathtub with his arms taped against his side and his feet bound together with duct tape. The boy had been diagnosed with an underdeveloped brain.
Swain also interviewed two 9-year-old girls, who told him they were restrained with duct tape many times.
Both girls told him that one of them was disciplined by being placed into a clothes dryer and "being spun around in it for several minutes."
The other girl told Swain that Graves punished her by taping her hands behind her, binding her feet and taping over her mouth.
Swain said he did not know how the children had come to be in Graves' care, but there was some indication "that she is like a way station for some adopted kids." Swain said detectives are trying to learn whether private agencies placed the children in the home. Some of the children from overseas did not speak English when they arrived in Bloomington, he said.
Graves employed "nannies" to help care for the children in the beige and stone house on the southeast outskirts of Bloomington, he said.
One of these workers called authorities to report concerns that the children were being abused.
The 13-year-old girl told Swain that Graves once left the home to pick someone up and then called to tell her to take the tape off the 7-year-old boy. The girl believed Graves didn't want an arriving nanny to see the boy taped up, Swain said.
However, nanny Amber Holland arrived early and helped the girl remove the tape.
The 13-year-old also reported seeing two girls restrained with their hands above their heads and their wrists or hands taped to a wall, Swain said.
Holland confirmed that she saw the boy taped up and that Graves called the house, asking if she had seen the boy.
Holland said she had. "Graves said she didn't know what to do with him, and discussed changing his medication," according to Swain's affidavit, which was filed in court earlier this week.
According to Department of Correction records, Graves, then known as Diana L. Roll, was sentenced in 1991 for fraud involving a financial institution. She was sentenced in 1992 on a failure-to-appear conviction. She also had a felony theft conviction in 1989, according to court records. Those three felony convictions led to the new habitual offender charge she faced Tuesday. Court papers indicate she used three other last names in addition to Graves, Groves and Roll.
Staff writer Rob Schneider also contributed to this story.
Call Star reporter Terry Horne at 1-317-444-6082.