exposing the dark side of adoption
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Couple gets prison terms

A Blachly mother will serve more than 10 years and her husband more than five for injuries to a foster child


A judge on Wednesday handed down lengthy prison sentences to a Blachly woman and her husband after they admitted to brutally abusing their 9-year-old adopted son, who first came into their home in 2005 as a foster child.

Alona Lee Hartwig, 46, entered guilty pleas in Lane County Circuit Court to one felony charge of first-degree assault and three felony counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment. Judge Maurice Merten sentenced her to a mandatory prison term of 10 years, 10 months, with no chance of early release.

Shackled and handcuffed, she wept in a jury box after her sentencing while listening to her husband, Rodger Hartwig Jr., 51, plead guilty to a felony charge of second-degree assault. He will serve a mandatory prison term of five years, 10 months.

His attorney, Herbert Evans of Eugene, said Rodger Hartwig is “very sorry” for not taking his adopted son for medical treatment of a third-degree burn the boy suffered earlier this year.

Neither Hartwig made any statement during their court appearance.

The Hartwigs told investigators in March that the boy burned his foot by touching hot water in a bathtub, but a doctor who treated the youngster at a Portland hospital concluded that was not possible, and that the boy was suffering from a severe case of sepsis as a result of the burn remaining untreated, according to court records.

Lane County sheriff’s detectives launched an investigation focusing on the Hartwigs in late March, after medical staff at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield notified state Department of Human Services officials of the boy’s suspicious injuries.

Initially hospitalized in critical condition, the boy spent more than one month at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland with injuries that included third-degree burns to his foot, as well as a fractured pelvis and several other broken bones, investigators said.

After the boy was released from the hospital, he told detectives that while living with the Hartwigs he was frequently beaten, fed formula to keep off weight and often made to sleep without a blanket on an outdoor porch as punishment.

The youngster now lives with a new foster family in Lane County.

“He’s doing really well,” DHS spokesman Gene Evans said of the boy. “That continues to be the good news in this story.”

The boy moved in with the Hartwigs in 2005 as a foster child. Rodger and Alona Hartwig became state-certified foster parents in 2003.

Investigators determined Alona Hartwig was responsible for most of the boy’s abuse. While she spent much of her day with the youngster and his siblings, Rodger Hartwig — a former Blachly School District board member — worked for Rosboro Lumber Co. in Springfield.

Contacted Wednesday by telephone, his mother, Pat Hartwig of Eugene, said she does not believe that her son deserves a lengthy prison sentence for his participation in the boy’s abuse.

“I don’t think it’s fair, but I’m not saying anything else,” she said before hanging up.

Six youngsters between the ages of 9 and 13 lived with Alona and Rodger Hartwig. Two of them are the couple’s biological children while the other four, including the injured boy, were adopted.

All four of the adopted children initially came to the Hartwigs’ home as foster children and are now living with new foster families, officials said.

During a 2005 interview with The Register-Guard for a feature article on foster parenting, Alona Hartwig said she felt joy working with foster children.

“It’s surprising how easy it is to love these kids and the blessing they add to your family,” she said at the time.

But state Department of Human Services officials say that they received reports of suspected child abuse in the Hartwigs’ home prior to the Hartwigs taking in the 9-year-old victim.

Exactly when the state agency was first alerted to possible abuse in the family remains unclear, although that information may be released by DHS as soon as next month, Evans said.

While many details of the department’s dealings with the family remain under investigation, state officials have said that DHS heard more than once that the boy had been abused after he moved in with the Hartwigs. Officials have not yet disclosed if they uncovered any evidence of the child’s abuse when they investigated those claims.

Because the Hartwigs’ arrests came just five months after a Eugene couple were jailed on charges that they fatally abused their 15-year-old daughter, DHS officials are now investigating the agency’s Lane County child welfare operations to identify and correct deficiencies.

In the case of the Eugene teen, Jeanette Maples, state officials have acknowledged that child welfare workers disregarded previous reports that the girl had been abused in her home. Several department employees were reprimanded for their involvement in that case.

Jeanette’s father, Richard McAnulty, and stepmother, Angela McAnulty, are being held in the Lane County Jail on murder charges in her death.

2010 Jul 29