exposing the dark side of adoption
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A story so sad it's kinda scary


John Wilkens

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Alicia Wade is 18 now, getting ready for her senior year in high school. She has two horses at the family farm in Cabool, Mo., wants more, and is thinking about becoming a veterinarian.

She doesn't talk much about San Diego, where evil came in through a bedroom window and turned her family's life upside down.

"It wasn't a very pleasant time for us there -- so, if it comes up, it comes up indirectly," said her father, Jim Wade. "But it's not like we're pretending it didn't happen."

On May 8, 1989, a methamphetamine abuser and registered sex offender named Albert Raymond Carder Jr. plucked 8-year-old Alicia from her bed in Cabrillo Heights, a Navy housing complex in Serra Mesa.

Carder took the girl to a nearby field and raped and sodomized her. He told her to be quiet or he would kill her. Then he brought her back.

Alicia told all this to authorities the next day, after her injuries were discovered. The authorities thought she was lying to protect her father.

Alicia was taken from her family and placed in foster care. Her therapist, her social worker and even a Juvenile Court judge pushed the girl to tell a "more believable" story.

In time, she accused her dad.

Jim Wade, a 20-year Navy veteran, was arrested and faced 16 years in prison. His wife, Denise, became suicidal and was hospitalized. Wade's mother drained her life's savings, more than $100,000, to pay for a lawyer and keep the family afloat. Alicia was earmarked for adoption.

Authorities pursued the case against Wade even though they knew Carder had attacked five other girls in the same neighborhood at about the same time. They had prosecuted Carder, winning convictions and a 25-year prison sentence.

With Wade's trial in the offing, defense attorney Michael McGlinn asked to have Alicia's night clothes tested for evidence. Semen stains, overlooked by police investigators, were discovered.

Testing on the stains excluded Wade as the source of the semen. The testing pointed instead to Carder.

Charges against Wade were dropped and Alicia was returned home. In May 1992, when Wade retired from the Navy, the family moved to Cabool.

In San Diego, the fallout went on for years. The Wades sued and eventually won settlements of about $3.7 million from various agencies and individuals. District Attorney Ed Miller lost his re-election bid. Alicia's therapist surrendered her license. Carder was hauled out of prison, pleaded guilty and had another 25 years added to his sentence.

Now the Wades live quietly in Cabool, where Jim grew up. It's a rural community of 2,000 people about 60 miles east of Springfield. Wade and two relatives run cattle on about 300 acres.

"We're all doing pretty well," Wade said in a recent phone interview.

Denise operates a day-care center. Alicia is looking forward to college. Joshua, her 16-year-old brother, will be a sophomore in high school. He is taking flying lessons and probably will follow his father into the military.

Jim, 44, sometimes makes speeches to legislators or special-interest groups about what happened in San Diego.

"We were put through a literal hell of contempt and accusations by evil manipulators bent on destroying me and my family," he told a Senate subcommittee in Washington four years ago. "Why? Because we had the misfortune of being the recipient of a random criminal assault."

Last year, the family had the misfortune of being the recipient of a piece of mail from county authorities in San Diego. It was a bill for almost $22,000 for various services rendered during the handling of Alicia's case.

The family sent the bill to their attorney, who persuaded the county to take it back, Jim Wade said.

"Sort of funny," Wade said, "and kind of scary."

1999 Aug 9