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Doctor: No signs of child abuse


A pediatrician who examined three of Jacob Lindorff's siblings after the 5-year-old died said they were healthy.

Wendy Ruderman

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Heather Lindorff did not hit the children she adopted from Russia. She didn't scream at them either, even when they misbehaved, or burn them with hot water, according to testimony yesterday.

A pediatrician who examined three of Jacob Lindorff's siblings shortly after his death was the first witness called by the defense on behalf of the Franklin Township mother.

Jacob, 5, died of blunt head trauma on Dec. 14, 2001, and the prosecution contends that Lindorff burned and beat the boy, delivering the fatal blow less than two months after his adoption.

But Marita Lind, a pediatrician hired by the state Division of Youth and Family Services to examine the Lindorff children for signs of abuse, said they seemed healthy.

"I did not find any signs of abuse or neglect physically in these children," Lind testified.

Lindorff, 39, is charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. Her husband, James, 54, is a codefendant charged with child abuse.

The Lindorffs have five other children, ages 7 to 19 and all adopted from Russia. Four juveniles live with Heather Lindorff's mother. The 19-year-old daughter, Jessica, continues to live with the Lindorffs on their Victoria Avenue farm.

Lind, who works at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, examined three of the five Lindorff children four days after Jacob's death. The other two children were examined by another university doctor who was unable to testify yesterday because of the flu.

Jacob's oldest brother, then age 7, told Lind he was happy living with the Lindorffs. His new mother "didn't beat them or scream at them," she recalled him saying.

Life, he said, was much better in New Jersey than in Russia, according to Lind's testimony.

In Russia, the boy told Lind, his biological mother would "beat" Jacob's head on the floor. Jacob suffered from persistent headaches.

Two of Jacob's sisters told Lind that the boy had acted strange in the days before his death. The muscles in his arms would tighten and he would become rigid. His 9-year-old sister said Jacob would fall over and then get back up and say he was only acting, Lind said.

The children's stories bolstered the defense's contention that Jacob was beaten in Russia and behaved strangely in the Lindorff home. Heather Lindorff told detectives that Jacob would suddenly fall over, then pop back up and say he was pretending. When detectives asked about the burns on Jacob's feet, she said he accidentally burned them in the tub on the morning of his death.

Another doctor, Carl Schopfer, testified yesterday that Heather Lindorff called him around 3 p.m., four hours before Jacob's death. She told him Jacob "had some kind of peeling of the skin on his foot," possibly from a burn he may have gotten in the tub.

"She was concerned enough to call me," Schopfer testified.

He told her to put an ointment on the wound, adding, "I didn't get the impression from her that it was that serious."

Earlier in the trial, several emergency workers testified to seeing blistered, second-degree burns on Jacob's feet. One worker said his feet looked like someone took a "potato peeler" to them.

Lindorff's attorney, Stephen Patrick, yesterday showed Schopfer an autopsy photo of the boy's feet. Schopfer said that the photo appeared to show second-degree burns, but he said that he would not have prescribed a different course of treatment had he seen Jacob's feet that day.

Contact staff writer Wendy Ruderman at 856-779-3926 or wruderman@phillynews.com.

2003 Dec 13