exposing the dark side of adoption
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Suspect in bid to sell child cuts deal


By Ginny McKibben

Aug. 1, 2000 - ARAPAHOE COUNTY - Denise Kaye Thomas, accused of trying to sell her adopted Russian daughter over the Internet, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges Monday.

In a deal brokered just moments before Thomas was to go on trial for felony solicitation and attempted trafficking of children, she pleaded guilty to drastically reduced charges.

Her husband, Peter Thomas, detailed in emotional testimony the "horrific and painful" ordeal that followed the January 1999 adoption of the girl.

The couple claims Denise Thomas was grossly misunderstood in her attempts to find a new home for the dysfunctional 8-year-old they had adopted only 4 1/2 months before.

"I hope that God will forgive the prosecutor," Thomas said during Monday's hearing.

But District Judge Gerald Rafferty, who sentenced Thomas to one year unsupervised probation and placed her on a child protective registry for child abusers, disagreed with the statement. The judge reminded her that she had Thomas asked prospective adoptive parents to pay $4,000 as partial reimbursement of the costs of the Russian adoption.

Prosecutor Bob Chappell said Thomas' statement showed she "didn't get" what was wrong about offering the child for adoption over the Internet, then seeking to recoup part of the $12,500 costs linked to the original adoption.

Chappell said he became convinced Thomas was actually attempting to recover her adoption costs by dealing directly over the Internet.

"That's an end run on all the safeguards in place for adoption proceedings. ... What was kind of amazing to me is that after we were done, she is still saying she is the victim in this whole thing. That says to me she doesn't get it," Chappell said.

Peter Thomas said the Russian adoption agency told him the charming girl looked forward to her adoption by American parents and would be a "perfect match" for the Thomas family.

But even before he left Russia, he saw hints that the family was headed for trouble. When the girl visited with her older sister, Thomas said he saw the two should never have been separated.

Moved because the girl "had no future,' Thomas said he decided to bring her home. Soon, however, he said he watched his own family - himself, his wife and their 14-year-old son - virtually destroyed. The girl, then diagnosed with attachment disorder, created a battlefield for every activity from brushing her hair and taking a bath to attending school. Her dentist refused to treat her unless she was under physical restraint, Thomas said.

"The child was a wild animal," Thomas said.

Thomas said he is now convinced the girl was sexually abused and could not relate to him or his son. The burden then fell on Denise Thomas to raise her.

At the same time, the child's behavior had begun to take a severe toll on his wife, who was being treated for a bipolar condition.

Thomas said they provided the girl with support, therapy and English lessons, but by May 1999, the family was exhausted.

On advice of a friend, Denise Thomas contacted an out-of-state, hoping they would adopt the girl. In a series of e-mails, Thomas allegedly confided: "We would feel a little bit better if we got around $4,000 plus her trip down there. Considering what you have to do adopt in Russia, this is a bargain. " The couple reported the offer to Arapahoe County authorities who then arrested Thomas.

Defense attorney Dan Murphy said after the hearing that he spent hours trying to persuade prosecutors that Denise Thomas never intended to harm, sell, barter or charge for her daughter, who's now with a foster family.

"We have have given up our dream. We will never attempt to adopt again," Peter Thomas said. "This has been devastating."

2000 Aug 1