exposing the dark side of adoption
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Adoptive mom released on reduced bail




A Franklin Township woman charged with murdering her 5-year-old adopted Russian son was released from jail Friday after her bail was reduced from $1 million to $100,000.

The woman, Heather Lindorff, 37, posted bond and was freed from the Gloucester County women's detention center in Clarksboro.

Superior Court Judge Anne McDonnell said Lindorff, while facing serious charges, has no criminal record, is a lifelong Gloucester County resident and is not a threat to herself or to others, according to a psychiatrist's report.

But McDonnell ordered that Lindorff have no contact with her five surviving adopted Russian children, `except as may be arranged by the (state) Division of Youth and Family Services.'

Lindorff also was charged with child endangerment, child abuse and aggravated assault in the death of Jacob Lindorff on Dec. 14. An autopsy determined death resulted from blunt trauma to the head. A prosecutor said the boy also had numerous bruises and scars and his feet were burned.

Lindorff's husband, James Lindorff, 52, was charged with child abuse. McDonnell said Friday he must also arrange any visits with the other adopted children through DYFS. The five children -- Jacob's twin brother, an older brother and three sisters from an earlier adoption -- were taken into DYFS custody Dec. 15 and are living with Heather Lindorff's mother.

The Lindorffs were arrested Feb. 26. James Lindorff is free on $25,000 bail.

McDonnell said the surviving children could all use counseling. She noted Jacob's brothers speak no English and rely on an older adopted Russian sister to communicate.

All the children appear to have traumatic histories in Russia, McDonnell said. `It is a very, very tangled and difficult case . . . They will require much effort by all involved to develop any kind of normalcy in their lives,' she said.

The Lindorffs' lawyer, Steven Patrick, argued at Heather Lindorff's bail-reduction hearing last week that the state's case was `thin' and that Jacob's fatal injury likely occurred `in the hands of the Russian people' before the Lindorffs adopted him and his two brothers. He contended death resulted from a `rebleeding' of an old injury. Patrick described as abusive Jacob's biological mother and the foster home in Russia where Jacob lived earlier.

Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Mary Pyffer dismissed the theory that Jacob suffered a fatal head injury before his adoption Oct. 30. Pyffer said medical evidence pointed to Heather Lindorff as the murderer.

Neither the Lindorffs nor Patrick had any comment after Friday's bail hearing.

2002 Mar 9