exposing the dark side of adoption
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Newton County couple’s custody of 10 foreign children in jeopardy


This residence at 9633 Hammer Road in Newton County was formerly occupied by Reed and Sharon Leonard. It is now up for sale.
Globe/T. Rob Brown

By Jeff Lehr
Globe Staff Writer
NEOSHO, Mo. — A Missouri couple is trying to get their 10 adopted children back, but they stand accused of making some of those children sleep in calf huts and a truck trailer in their backyard.

Sharon and Reed Leonard were charged in August with misdemeanor child endangerment, almost a year after an investigation by the Newton County Sheriff’s Department and state child-welfare workers determined some of the children allegedly were forced to stay outside the couple’s home north of Neosho. Sharon Leonard, 51, also was charged with felony child abuse.

According to court records, a 6-year-old boy allegedly told a teacher that his mother hit him with a paddle.

A probable-cause affidavit alleges that Sharon Leonard struck them with the paddle or other objects, including a plastic pipe, a metal rod and a snow-removal brush. They told investigators she allegedly threatened to kill a couple of the boys. They also reported that six of them had been made to stay outside the Leonards’ home from time to time and to sleep in calf huts and the detached box trailer of a truck.

“What I was told was they were given their meals on the porch of the home and had to ask permission from the parents to go inside and get ready for school,” Detective Dale Brashers said of the children allegedly forced to sleep in the backyard.

The Leonards and their attorney, Aaron Farber, Neosho, did not return calls.

The Leonards moved to Newton County in November 2008 from Wisconsin, where they’d operated the Hearts of Hope Adoption Ministry, a not-for-profit organization offering assistance in international adoptions, and Abiding Acres Kennel, a dog-breeding business.

For more on this story, pick up a copy of Sunday’s Joplin Globe or register for our E-Edition here at joplinglobe.com.

2010 Sep 18