exposing the dark side of adoption
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Foster parents sentenced in child's death


Marion County/Dec. 17 - A state agency botched a background check that might have prevented the death of four-year-old Anthony Bars. Now, Anthony's parents are back in jail. But Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi says the case isn't over yet.

Anthony Bars weighed just 24 pounds when he died in January 2002.

Police interviews reveal he was "markedly emaciated and growth retarded," bruised from repeated beatings with a wooden paddle, metal spoon and belt.

Brizzi described the home where Anthony lived with his twin sister as a torture chamber. "They, over a period of time, abused these kids slowly, starved them slowly, until you had the result that we have here today."

A judge convicted Anthony's adoptive parents, L.B. and Latricia Bars, on felony neglect charges in the case last month. Their daughter, Hope, was convicted of battery.

Wednesday, they returned to court for sentencing.

Friends and relatives portrayed the Bars as a church-centered family that took good care of the children.

Harold Bell says, "She was a minister, she was an evangelist, doing all the work of an evangelist. And I just couldn't conceive that she'd be doing anything like that to a child."

But Brizzi described them as "Church-loving, God-loving people that beat and starved a four-year-old little boy to death. It is reprehensible what they did to them and what they tried to portray in the courtroom. Fiction."

A tearful Latricia Bars told the court she didn't abuse the twins, that they were sick with the flu and had eating disorders.

But Judge Cale Bradford ordered her to 13 years in jail.

L.B. Bars, who pleaded guilty and testified against his wife and daughter, received eight years. Judge Bradford placed Hope Bars on probation.

One key player in the case was not in court, Denise Moore, the child protection caseworker who placed Anthony and his sister with the Bars.

An Eyewitness News investigation found that happened without a proper background check that would have revealed L.B. Bars had a history of child abuse. Brizzi says his next step is to consider possible action against Moore.

A final note about this case, Hope Bars is due to have her own baby in January. And she has several younger siblings who now face an uncertain future with their parents in jail. Brizzi said he can only hope that if they end up in foster care they receive better treatment than Anthony Bars did.

2002 Dec 17