exposing the dark side of adoption
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Couple accused sexual, physical abuse of children kept in attic


By Katie Bauer

TASWELL, IN (WAVE) – A Crawford County grand jury indictment gave some indication of what the four adopted children of Bernie and Melissa Harmon said they lived through while in their care.

The charges state the four children were kept in an attic, taken out of school and fed very little. On top of that the father is also accused of sexually abusing those adopted children.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Couple arrested for sexual abuse, neglect of children]

"There's really no words to explain how horrible it was," said Cory Neace, who was adopted by the Harmon's, but left the home two years ago.

Neace said he was one of five foster children in the Harmon's care. He said after the Harmons legally adopted them in 2008, the abuse started. Neace left the home as soon as he turned 18.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Alleged Crawford County foster family abuse victim breaks silence]

"We got hit and whipped with a small little extension cord," said Neace.

The siblings he left behind are now 12 to 16 years old. Last month a grand jury formally charged the Harmons with more than 40 counts of abuse. Court records say the couple confined the two boys and two girls in an attic, barely fed them, hit them with a whip and kept them out of school.

"Whenever they go somewhere they would leave us outside until they got back and even then we were still outside," said Neace.

Melissa Harmon has bonded out of jail, but wasn't home when we stopped by. Neighbor Ronald Nelson has known the Harmons most of his life, growing up in Taswell. He says two years ago he witnessed the neglect first hand when he stopped by their house. While no one else was home a 13 year old boy came out of a small shed.

"I said what are they doing leaving you up here in the shed and he said 'Yeah, they won't let me in the house' is what he told me," said Nelson.

Nelson says it was around 20 degrees that day. "Basically left him to sit in the shed on a freezing cold day like that," said Nelson.

While he didn't want to get involved back then he didn't call police. Nelson says knowing what he knows now, he wishes he did.

"Some of the foster kids were blamed for breaking into houses and stealing food to eat," said Nelson. "I mean they wasn't just ransacking the home, they were taking food out and eating it."

Bernie Harmon is accused of child molestation, sexual misconduct with a minor, vicarious sexual gratification and battery. Melissa Harmon, a contracted Crawford County school bus driver, is charged with 12 counts of neglect. The superintendent said Melissa Harmon will no longer be driving for the district.

Bernie Harmon remains locked up in the Crawford County Jail.

2013 Aug 8