OMAHA, NE – A Macy, Nebraska, husband and wife have pleaded not guilty to locking a 10-year-old foster son in a basement storage room.
Krista Parker entered her plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Omaha to federal and state charges of kidnapping, child abuse/neglect and false imprisonment. Charles Parker pleaded not guilty to the same charges Thursday.
Trial dates have not been set.
According to court documents, authorities on Sept. 15 were called to the Parker home about a report of a boy locked in a storage room.
Officers found the boy locked in the dark, windowless room, amid trash, a few toys and human feces. The room stunk of urine and feces, court documents said.
Krista Parker was found passed out upstairs, and a preliminary breath test showed her blood-alcohol content at 0.126 percent.
Parker confessed to locking the boy in the room a few hours earlier, court documents said, but denied confining the special-needs boy, who had been in her foster care for nine months, in the room previously.
Charles Parker told officers he was unaware that his wife had confined their son in the room that night, but he said that they occasionally locked the boy in the room for several hours and maybe for a night one time, court documents said.
The boy told a forensic interviewer that the storage room was his bedroom and that he slept on the floor because he did not have a bed.
County child protection director out amid allegations of failed Child Abuse investigations
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA – Riverside County’s top child protection official, Susan von Zabern, left her job Monday as the county fights two civil cases alleging that severe child abuse continued after the department had finished their investigations.
“….these disturbing cases indicate department leadership is failing to effectively stop child abuse.”
The two civil cases were filed by attorney Roger Booth on behalf of the juvenile victims seeking damages for the trauma they suffered as a result of the botched investigations.
“Child protective services is supposed to be there for kids whose parents can’t and won’t protect them.” Booth said.
In one case, filed in November 2017, a thirteen-year-old girl suffered repeated sexual abuse, rape, and eventually was impregnated by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. In another, filed in March, a three-year-old suffered severe neglect and was found in a filthy home hugging her dead infant sibling.
The complaints in both cases show staff from the Riverside County Children’s Services Division of the Department of Public Social Services repeatedly visited the homes of the victims, but failed to stop the abuse, and closed the investigations prematurely.
The County Board of Supervisors held closed-door meetings in recent months regarding the allegations, and said they will fight the cases, the Press-Enterprise reported.
Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the county, said that von Zabern “separated” from the county on Monday, but could not provide further comment due to department policies on personnel matters and the open status of the civil cases.
“The county constantly works to improve processes and programs that protect residents who are at-risk,” Smith said. “The county will aggressively continue that work.”
Social services staff knew a juvenile victim suffered repeated sexual abuse by her mother’s boyfriend, according to the lawsuit, but the agency closed the investigation anyway.
The complaint alleges that the department failed to report that the victim’s mother was not capable of protecting her, that the sexual abuse would likely continue, and that they led the victim to believe the department was the only hope for her protection.
At one point the department even asked the suspect to sign a safety plan they drafted, designating him as one of her caregivers, according to the complaint.
About a year later, the victim, 13 at the time, gave birth to a baby and put it up for adoption. Blood tests confirmed that the suspect was the father.
The suspect is facing 22 counts of child sexual abuse and is due in court on Sept. 28.
Another case, filed in March, alleges that a young child was routinely neglected by her mother, who struggled with drug addiction and mental illness.
The mother later became pregnant and reported to the department that she was not receiving prenatal care and had stopped using her medication.
On several occasions, the department visited the home, but ultimately considered the case inconclusive and closed the investigation.
Days after one of the department’s final visits in April 2016, a neighbor flagged down a passing police car and reported a foul smell from the victim’s apartment.
Inside, police found a horrific scene, according to court documents: The three-year-old was laying on a mattress, hugging the decaying corpse of her infant sibling.
Both of the juvenile plaintiffs in the civil cases have been appointed a guardian by the courts.
The cases specifically name 10 staff in the Department of Public Social Services alleging they failed at their duties and violated the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.
To Booth, these disturbing cases indicate department leadership is failing to effectively stop child abuse.
“Child protective services is supposed to be there for kids whose parents can’t and won’t protect them.” Booth said. “They just simply failed to do that in these cases.”
The cases seek compensation for the victims and for punitive damages against specific staff named in the complaint.
“What these kids went through is horrific,” Booth said. “They’re entitled to compensation commensurate with the harm that was done to them.”
In the United States, methamphetamine is making a comeback. Following the legalization of medical marijuana in California, Mexican cartels pivoted to the production of pure liquid meth, which is brought across the border and crystallized in conversion labs. There is more meth on the streets than ever before, according to William Ruzzamenti, a 30-year Drug Enforcement Administration veteran and the Executive Director of the Central Valley California HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). It’s also cheaper than ever—the average cost of an ounce of methamphetamine dropped from nearly $968 in 2013 to around $250 in 2016.
“I think a lot of people associate meth with the 1990s, and this comeback has gone largely unnoticed in the shadow of the heroin and opioid epidemics,” Mary Newman, a journalist at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, told The Atlantic.
Newman’s short documentary, Motherhood and Meth, focuses on the drug’s frequently overlooked and arguably most vulnerable victims: children. Although no scientific research has been conducted that directly correlates meth addiction to child abuse or neglect, many experts on the subject report a connection that Newman describes as “staggering.” In her film, Newman interviews Dr. Philip Hyden, a child abuse specialist who has worked across the U.S. for more than 30 years. Since 2010, Dr. Hyden has served as the medical director at the Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno, the poorest urban ZIP code in the state. Fresno experiences a high incidence of child abuse, and Dr. Hyden attributes one cause to the high rate of methamphetamine addiction in the region. He estimates that meth use is involved in over 70% of the 1,000 abuse cases the clinic sees each year.
“We see children that have been beaten or abused in many scenarios where the perpetrator was on meth at the time,” Dr. Hyden says in the film. “We see things that are hard to believe that happen to kids.”
This abuse sometimes begins during pregnancy; an estimated 19,000 meth users in the U.S. are pregnant women. In home environments where meth is manufactured, children almost always test positive for methamphetamine—often at levels as high as addicted users, according to an expert in the film.
To get a firsthand look at the effects of methamphetamine addiction on mothers and their children, Newman’s documentary follows law enforcement officers, professionals at treatment facilities, and mothers affected by meth addiction who admit to having neglected their kids. Newman met many of these women at Fresno’s weekly free needle exchange. She interviewed more than twenty women—some of whom agreed to participate, only to disappear once a shoot date was scheduled—before she found the subjects featured in the film.
“Once I built up some essential trust with women willing to share their struggles of addiction, I would ask if meth ever caused them or someone in their life to become violent,” Newman said. “Everyone responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’” Newman added that she heard “harrowing” stories about domestic violence, child abuse, and a generational cycle of meth addiction. Many of the addicts she spoke to were either the child of a meth addict themselves or had experienced abuse early in life.
“The power methamphetamine has on a person’s life was the most surprising part of [reporting] this story,” Newman said. “I would speak with people struggling with addiction and they would have a certain self-awareness that their decisions were derailing their life, but they would also describe a feeling of complete helplessness.” Newman said that several people—both addicts and experts—described meth as “evil” due to the sheer power over the people that use it.
“These kids are the ultimate victims,” says a police officer in the film. “They didn’t ask for this.”
ARDMORE, OK – Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant said an investigation into a child abuse case which began August 1 via the Dickson Police Department is still underway.
The investigation is now being conducted by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office.
“There was a two year old and a four-year-old inside the home,” Bryant said. “The conditions inside the house were dilapidated, very bad conditions. The house had lots of feces, animal feces, and no running water.” Bryant said Dickson Police sent the two-year-old child to the hospital. That child was later airlifted for medical care. The other child was treated by a local doctor, Bryant said. The children have been placed with a foster family and their medical needs are being addressed.
“The child who was airlifted was released to a foster family,” Bryant said. “He is mobile, moving around laughing and talking.“
Bryant said the children are the biological children of the male subject in the case. Bryant confirmed charges have been filed on both the biological father and spouse.
“This right here has been the worst we have ever seen,” Bryant said. “It’s very disheartening, as a father myself. It has been very difficult for everyone that has worked on this. No child deserves this. This is unacceptable.” Bryant confirmed both subjects remain in custody as of Friday morning . Bond was set for the male subject in the amount of $1 million. Bond has been reduced for the female subject to $75,000.
“This was an issue that Dickson PD had been involved with early on,” Bryant said. The family had been previously investigated by DHS as well, according to Bryant. “We want to offer assistance to any agency having these issues. We want to make sure these things are handled correctly and taken care of swiftly. We want to help those children who don’t have a voice for themselves.” Bryant said more charges may be added as the investigation is still ongoing.
While investigators are looking into whether the female subject may have participated in the abuse of the children, Bryant said knowing the abuse is being perpetrated and not reporting or protecting the children is just as reprehensible. “She didn’t do much to stop it, from what we’re understanding,” Bryant said. “You’re just as guilty if you know this is happening and don’t try to stop it. We would encourage anyone out there who has information about any kind of abuse whatsoever going on, please call us and let us help.”
Bryant said he waited to discuss the case with the public or the media until he could be sure he could present precise information. “We want to make sure that what we’re reporting is 100 percent factual before we discuss it,” Bryant said. “When you have children or infants at stake here, we want to protect the integrity of the case.”
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA – The second of twin infants found unresponsive in a vehicle Thursday has died, according to police in Chesterfield County, Virginia.
The 5-month-old twins were found unresponsive around 2:30 p.m. in an SUV in the 2400 block of Alfalfa Lane near Jefferson Davis Highway, according to WTVR.
Police, along with Chesterfield County Fire and EMS responded to the scene and transported the children to Chippenham Hospital.
One of the children was pronounced dead at the hospital Thursday afternoon. The other child died several hours later.
The children, according to neighbors were a boy and a girl.
A woman who lives a few doors down defended the children’s parents through tears.
“They go to work, they come home to their kids. They’re not any trouble, they’re awesome,” the woman, who declined to be identified, said.
“It’s tragic what happened, I don’t even know how to help them with their pain. It was certainly not an intentionally negligent act, it was a horrific mistake that can never be erased,” said another neighbor, Donna Gusti, who also works with both parents at a nearby Waffle House.
The woman who lives next door to the family said the wife was at work Thursday afternoon when she called her.
“His wife called me at 2 p.m. to wake him up to come and get her from work and that’s when everything happened,” the neighbor said. “That’s when he found the babies in the car.”
She believes the husband just forgot the babies remained in the car when he got home from dropping his wife off at work.