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Abuse reports about Camillus boy made 10 months ago, but boy was left in home, day care director says


By Darian Stevenson | DStevenson@syracuse.com and Fernando Alba | falba@syracuse.com

Camillus, N.Y. – Ten months ago, an 11-year-old Camillus boy told child abuse investigators that his mother was abusing him, according to a woman who witnessed the interview.

The woman, the director of a local day care center, was sure the boy would be removed from the home. He was not.

On Tuesday, the mother, Susan Orendorf, 44, was arrested, accused of not feeding the boy, handcuffing him to a bed and strangling him. School employees became suspicious when school opened this month because they noticed the boy had lost a lot of weight.

Orendorf for five years forced the boy to sleep on the floor every night and would handcuff him to a bed frame, detectives said in a criminal complaint filed in Camillus Town Court.

Karen Sweeney, the director of Partners in Parenting Child Care Center in Camillus, said in an interview Friday with Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard that she was sure the boy was being abused when she called authorities in November 2021.

“I don’t understand,” Sweeney said. “I sat through the interview and in detail he tells this woman how he was abused, gives her very specific details.”

Sweeney and a worker at another day care center told Syracuse.com that they had reported their suspicions to officials that the boy was being abused. The other worker said she made her report in 2017.

Onondaga County Department of Children and Family Services officials, through a county spokesperson, declined to be interviewed. Justin Sayles, the spokesperson, said the county will not comment on open investigations and can’t comment about the case due to privacy laws.

Karen Sweeney, the director of Partners in Parenting Child Care Center in Camillus, said she called CPS on Nov. 11 to report that she thought the boy was being abused by his mother.

“I thought he was going to be placed somewhere else and not go home with [Orendorf], and last thing I knew is he went home and I didn’t get to see him again,” she said.

The boy attended Partners in Parenting from March to November before his mother pulled him out, according to Sweeney. He was a remote learner and would attend the day care center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, she said.

Sweeney said the boy opened up to her and detailed what was going on at home.

Sweeney called CPS and a worker was sent out to the day care center the same day she made the report. She set an appointment time with CPS and said she sat with the boy while he was interviewed so he wouldn’t be afraid.

The boy said he had spoken to county investigators several times prior to the interview alongside Sweeney, but had not been honest with the workers because his mother was present when he was being interviewed, according to Sweeney.

Sweeney asked the CPS worker to conduct the interview with the mom after he was at school, and made sure the interview with the boy was done at the day care center and not in the home the boy shared with Orendorf and her other children.

Sweeney said she followed up on the report for five days after the interview but felt she was “dismissed.”

“I tried to go there and I left messages every day for five days, asking to speak to somebody about the case that I had been involved in and nobody got back to me,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said she finally received a call back, but was not given an answer as to where the boy was placed.

Soon after the interview, Orendorf pulled her son from the day care center.

“She pulled him out right after [the interview],” Sweeney said. “Right in front of me [Orendorf] put him in the car, looked at me and smirked.”

Sweeney said she followed up on the boy until the end of the school year, but lost track of him when summer started and children were out on summer vacation.

Prior to being taken out of the day care, Sweeney said she would often question Orendorf about his appearance and behavior.

“He was underweight, he’d have dark circles under his eyes; he just didn’t look healthy,” Sweeney said. “We brought this up to his mom and we would ask questions and ask for doctors notes and she could never produce those.”

Sweeney said they tried to keep Orendorf “happy” so they wouldn’t pull the boy from their care. When too many questions were asked Orendorf said, “Maybe this isn’t the day care for me,” according to Sweeney.

Ashley Mincolla, a former day care worker at Learn as You Grow in Camillus, said in an interview with Syracuse.com that she first started working with the boy when he was around 6.

Mincolla said she started to suspect abuse when she noticed his behavior suddenly change.

“He went from this happy-go-lucky little kid to being mean all the time,” she said.

He would come into the day care center starving, Mincolla said. She said she would sneak him fast food at times.

Then the signs became more visible, Mincolla said. She saw bruising on his inner thighs, she said. The boy told her his mother was responsible, Mincolla said.

Another day, the boy came into the day care center with scratches on his face, Mincolla said. She said the boy told her Orendorf slammed something onto his face and that the lie he was told to tell others is that he ran into bushes.

Mincolla said she and a coworker reported Orendorf anonymously to a Child Protective Services hotline.

Orendorf has three biological children and two adoptive children, one of the adoptive children being the boy who she abused, according to the day care director.

This month, school staff and a school resource officer on the West Genesee School District noticed and reported changes in the 11-year-old boy.

On the first day of school, the officer noticed the boy lost a significant amount of weight over the summer, Camillus Police Chief Michael Schreyer said. It was a red flag that made the officer reexamine incidents from the year before, like how the boy had gotten in trouble multiple times for stealing food from other students, Schreyer said.

The boy opened up to school officials and counselors, deputies said. That led to Orendorf’s arrest this week.

Orendorf was charged Tuesday with second-degree unlawful imprisonment, second-degree strangulation and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She was arraigned and released after posting a $40,000 bond same day of arrest.

An Onondaga County prosecutor said Orendorf could potentially be charged with more crimes.

The boy and his 6-year-old sister have been removed from Orendorf’s home, deputies said. It is not known if authorities removed the other children from her home.

2022 Sep 27