The Hall of SHAME
The Perpetuation of Child Abuse in the United States
Lesser verdict in child deaths
A woman whose children drowned is convicted of child endangerment, but not murder.
DECATUR, Ill. - A woman whose three children drowned when the family car rolled into a lake was convicted Tuesday of child endangerment.
Prosecutors had charged Amanda Hamm, 30, with first-degree murder in the deaths of Christopher Hamm, 6; Austin Brown, 3; and Kyleigh Hamm, 1.
Authorities said Hamm was going along with her boyfriend's plan to drown the children to get rid of the strain they added to the couple's sometimes abusive relationship.
Maurice LaGrone, now Hamm's ex-boyfriend, was convicted in April of murdering the children and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Hamm showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but began sobbing after the jury left the courtroom.
Her attorney, Steve Skelton, said the verdict means the jury decided Hamm did not help plan the murders but should have known LaGrone was a threat to her children.
Hamm and LaGrone maintained that LaGrone accidentally parked too close to the water on a boat ramp, and the car lurched forward and sank after he tried to back out.
During the trial, prosecutors played audiotapes, recorded when Hamm was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts after the drownings, in which she told investigators she and LaGrone planned the deaths. In another taped interview, she said LaGrone planned to kill both her and the children, but she later backed away from that account.
Hamm did not testify.
The verdict carries a sentence ranging from probation to 20 years in prison. Hamm has been jailed for three years.
Sentencing was set for Feb. 1, and her bond was reduced to $100,000, from $5 million.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Shame of child sex tourism on Kenyan Coast
By Cyrus Kinyungu
At least 1,500 children engage in sex tourism daily along the Kenyan coast. This is according to a damning new report released by the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (Unicef).
And contrary to prior perceptions that the sex pests involved in the vice are only foreign tourists, the report indicates that 40 per cent of those exploiting the children are crooked Kenyan men.
Most of those involved — mainly Kenyans, Italians and Germans — do not use condoms, exposing the children to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/Aids, and teenage pregnancies.
According to the shocking report, most foreigners prefer anal sex to normal heterosexual intercourse.
Kenyan men the largest single client base
Of all the minors engaged in child sex tourism, 65 per cent come from the Coast Province while the rest (35 per cent) travel from Central, Western and Eastern Provinces, the report said.
The report is based on a survey conducted by the Government and Unicef. It was released at a Nairobi hotel on Tuesday by the Vice President Mr Moody Awori.
Rating Kenyan men as the largest single client base for this exploitative behaviour, the report notes that the children also provide sexual services to hotel workers and beach boys as a "bribe" to gain access to tourists.
Seventy five per cent of those interviewed during the survey indict Kenyans more than they do foreigners.
A big majority of interviewees accepted the practice of child sex tourism as "normal and tolerable" with some of them approving the vice outright.
Only 20 per cent of those interviewed thought the behaviour — which sees thousands of children at the coast’s hotspots every night — immoral.
Kenyans, Italians and Germans have lowest rate of condom use
Close to 60 per cent of those interviewed approved of boys’ involvement in sex tourism either as beach boys, pimps and middlemen or engaging in the sex itself.
The report estimates that between 10,000 and 15,000 girls in the coastal areas of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi and Kwale are involved in routine sex tourism.
"The number of children engaging in sex tourism as a fulltime-year-round commercial activity is much lower at a figure of 2,000 to 3,000," the report says.
According to the report, Kenyans, Italians and Germans have the lowest rate of condom use.
"No condom was used during 32 per cent of all penetrative sex acts and 42 per cent of all acts of anal sex," it noted.
Among the tourists, Italian (18 per cent), German (14 per cent) and Swiss (12 per cent) men were ranked the top three nationalities seeking sex with underage female sex workers with Ugandans and Tanzanians following closely.
"The existence of a local demand for child sex workers sustains the sex tourist market during the low seasons or tourist market fluctuations," said the report.
Findings described as "shocking reality"
The children are paid between Sh1,000 and Sh5,000 for the exploitation by the adults as compared to Sh120 they would earn every day for casual labour.
While launching the report, Awori described the findings as the "shocking reality", noting that the numbers continue to grow to horrific levels around the coastal region.
"Our society is morally decaying and fast degenerating in its social fabric," he said.
"We are reminding all Kenyans that children have a need and a right to be children… even if a girl has matured physically by age 13, she is still immature intellectually and emotionally until she is 18 years old," he said.
Awori said that children who are exploited for sex should not be treated as criminals but as victims who need care and understanding.
The VP warned that the law against sexual exploitation of children should apply equally to everyone including the tourists. He said the Children’s Act is now being reviewed to improve on its provisions.
"Let our police and the communities not protect people who are exploiting our children," he warned.
No-go zone for sexual exploiters of children
Awori said the Government now requires all foreigners to state their residential address in Kenya before being allowed into the country in order to combat the exploitation of children by tourists.
Unicef Kenya representative, Mr Heimo Laakkonen said it was shocking to learn that Kenyans top the list of child abusers.
Despite the shocking statistics, said Laakkonen, there was still hope if all concerned worked together against child sex tourism.
"Tourists and Kenyans who abuse children must be arrested, brought to trial and punished," he said.
"We must also scale up programmes promoting responsible tourism, expand endorsement of the code of conduct which binds hoteliers and their staff to report the abuse and suspected abuse of children on their premises," the Unicef boss added.
He said tourists should be made aware from their points of origin that Kenya is a no-go zone for sexual exploiters of children.
Nine Month-Old Baby is Memphis's 155th Homicide
Last Update: 12/19/2006 2:36:56 PM
Posted By: Liz Wilson
Memphis Police Department Homicide investigators are conducting an investigation into the death of nine month-old Edgar Juarez.
On Sunday, December 10, 2006 at 4:22 am, the baby was admitted to "Le Bonheur Children's Hospital" with problems breathing.
Edgar died at the hospital on Monday, December 11th.
The hospital called police. The medical examiner performed an autopsy.
On Tuesday, December 12, 2006 the Shelby County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the baby's death a homicide due to head trauma.
Edgar is Memphis' 155th homicide in 2006.
Homicide investigators say they know who killed the child, but charges have not been filed. The investigation into the child's death is ongoing.
A Few Words From the Judge's Bench
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; Page B02
In more than a decade of presiding over Baltimore's juvenile court, Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch watched thousands of addicts lose their children and never get the help they needed to regain custody. An estimated 300 Baltimore children under age 5 enter foster care each year because of an addicted parent, statistics show. Following are excerpts from a recent conversation with the judge .
"The system is so disjointed that the best-trained social worker and capable drug-addicted parents couldn't figure it out. No one was there that had all the connections and the money."
The experimental court, with $2.5 million in public-private money, was able to hire a private contractor to assess each addict's needs and to reserve slots in drug treatment programs. Without reserved places, addicts in state programs might wait two to six weeks to enter long-term inpatient treatment, a state analysis shows.
"The unique thing we've done is privatized the management of drug treatment services."
Welch said he hopes the program will help not just the addicts but their children as well.
"There is this vicious cycle of child abuse and neglect where the child develops attachment disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder. There's an impact on the brain's serotonin levels. They end up on the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system."
Where art thou, Baby Moses?
Monitor Staff Writer
Hidalgo County has its share of child abuse, endangerment and neglect — but no legal abandonment.
In the seven years since the "Baby Moses Law" was signed by then-Gov. George W. Bush, no parent has legally abandoned their infant at one of the county’s designated drop-off sites, as provided for in the statute.
The law, meant to give unfit parents an alternative to abandoning their babies in dangerous places, allows them to bring babies younger than 60 days old to hospitals and fire stations without facing criminal charges. Named after the Moses of biblical times who was given up by his birth mother, the law has been adopted by more than 40 states since Texas first passed it in 1999.
The absence of Baby Moses cases in Hidalgo County reflects a lack of awareness about the law and parents’ unwillingness to abandon their children even in dangerous situations, according to a half-dozen healthcare providers interviewed.
"Some of these ladies don’t have a strong support system, but they will not give up their babies," said Victoria Lee Longoria, a nurse practitioner at Nuestra Clinica del Valle, which provides prenatal care for indigent and undocumented mothers in eight of the county’s cities. "They won’t even consider giving their babies up for adoption, much less abandonment."
Hispanic culture, with its emphasis on family, also plays a role in a woman’s decision to keep her baby, Longoria said.
"A lot of these women have aunts, distant relatives," she said. "They’d be more willing to give up their babies to a relative than to somebody they don’t know. There’s a lot of that."
At Planned Parenthood’s McAllen office, women are typically not told about the Baby Moses Law, said Kathryn Hearn, the facility’s community service director.
"Even our own staff are not always clear about the law," she said.
Officials at the Department of Family and Protective Services, which is responsible for infants abandoned under the Baby Moses Law, acknowledged that they need to do more to educate the public about its provisions.
A possible explanation for parents being uninformed, they said, was the absence of publicity that comes with not having any Baby Moses cases.
"Maybe there’s a lack of knowledge about it," said Scott Dixon, director of the family and protective services region that includes Hidalgo and 18 other counties. "We do get abandoned babies from time to time, and maybe parents don’t know there’s a safe way to do it."
Baby Moses drop-offs are not considered commonplace anywhere in Texas.
Since 1999, 40 to 50 infants have been abandoned in the state, according to the office of state Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, who sponsored the law. Neither Morrison’s office nor state officials could provide an annual or county-by-county breakdown of the cases, though they said many have occurred in Dallas and San Antonio.
By allowing unfit parents to give their babies to the state, the law’s proponents also hoped to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect.
Hidalgo County, the state’s seventh-most populous county in the 2000 U.S. Census, ranked fifth among counties in confirmed child abuse and neglect victims in fiscal year 2006, according to state statistics. With 2,532 victims, Hidalgo is behind the four most populous counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant.
But healthcare providers and law enforcement officials cautioned against assuming that Baby Moses cases would precipitate a decline in reported abuse.
"I’m not sure mothers dropping their children off at police stations are the same ones abusing or neglecting them in the future," said Stanley Fisch, a pediatrician and founder of Harlingen Pediatrics Associates. "I’m not sure there’s a connection."
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said that in his two years in office, his department hasn’t handled one case where a parent couldn’t take care of a child. The abandonment cases resulted from negligence, he said, or violent crimes perpetrated against a child’s parents.
"I don’t have anything to show me that there is a problem" with parents being unable to care for their children, Treviño said.
"I totally support Baby Moses, but I haven’t come across a child abandonment case where that law could’ve helped."
However, Mission police spokesman Sgt. Martin Garza said he was hopeful that more awareness about Baby Moses could decrease the issues his department addresses every week — infants left in sweltering cars, toddlers walking around neighborhoods unsupervised and children being abused by their parents.
"There’s not a lot of knowledge about this law in our area," Garza said. "Publicizing the state law will reduce the incidence of infants and toddlers losing their lives."
Michael Barnett covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4447. For this and more local stories, visit www.themonitor.com.
Posted on Mon, Dec. 18, 2006
Sitter questioned in death of boy she was minding
BY ERIKA BERAS
Miami homicide detectives are investigating the death of a 1-year-old baby boy.
According to Miami Fire Rescue, a baby sitter dropped off the unresponsive child to his mother about 1 p.m. today. The baby sitter claimed the baby wasn't ``acting right.''
The female baby sitter lived around the corner from the Publix at 134 SW 13th St. where the child's mother worked.
She left as soon as she dropped off the baby, Miami police said.
A doctor was shopping at the supermarket and noticed the baby wasn't breathing. He attempted CPR on the baby as employees and shoppers frantically placed 911 calls.
Miami Fire Rescue and Miami police responded and the baby was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Employees at Publix refused to comment on the situation.
The baby sitter is currently being questioned by Miami police.
10 million girl children killed in India: UNICEF report
NEW DELHI (ICNS) -- A UNICEF report released in India this week says nearly 10 million girls have been killed by their parents in the last two decades, either before they were born or immediately after.
Reacting to the report, India’s Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said: "It is a national crisis. It's shocking figures and we are in a national crisis.”
The report from the apex UN agency said 7,000 fewer girls are born in India every day than the global average would suggest, largely because female foetuses are aborted after sex determination tests but also through murder of new borns.
"Today, we have the odd distinction of having lost 10 million girl children in the past 20 years," Chowdhury said pointing out: "Who has killed these girl children? Their own parents."
"The minute the child is born and she opens her mouth to cry, they put sand into her mouth and her nostrils so she chokes and dies," the Minister said.
"They bury infants into pots alive and bury the pots. They put tobacco into her mouth. They hang them upside down like a bunch of flowers to dry," she said.
"We have more passion for tigers of this country. We have people fighting for stray dogs on the road. But you have a whole society that ruthlessly hunts down girl children."
According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio was 933 girls to 1,000 boys, while in the worst-affected northern state of Punjab, it was 798 girls to 1,000 boys.
The ratio has fallen since 1991, due to the availability of ultrasound sex-determination tests.
Although these are illegal they are still widely available and often lead to abortion of girl foetuses.
December 16, 2006
Investigators handling more cases of child sex abuse
By DEBORAH CIRCELLI
DAYTONA BEACH -- Reports of sexual abuse against children in Volusia and Flagler counties have risen in recent years, but child advocates fear even more cases because children are afraid to speak up.
The arrest this month of the local foster parent association president, George Allen Goolde, 61, charged with four counts of molestation involving children in his care, is one example.
A former foster teen who used to live in Goolde's Orange City home said recently he suspected abuse was occurring with younger children there, but he didn't have proof and was afraid no one would believe him.
If there's no physical evidence, sexual abuse can become "a child's word against the adult's word," said Karen Horzepa, Child Protection Team coordinator of the Children's Advocacy Center, which helps state officials and police interview and examine children who are victims of abuse.
In Goolde's case, police said, he admitted to fondling two of the children. Two others also say he fondled them during "story time" and other children who were in his home are still being interviewed.
In 2005, workers with the state Department of Children & Families in Volusia and Flagler counties investigated 618 reports of sex abuse allegations, up from 501 in 2004. Of the 618, investigators found indications of abuse in 233 cases. So far this year, there have been 541 sex abuse reports, and investigators found 167 had indications of sexual abuse. There may be even more this year since investigations on many cases are still pending, officials said.
Horzepa said children are often "threatened not to tell or there is the implication of the threat."
The perpetrator also is almost always someone the child knows, officials said. They added children are usually not the ones who report the incident because they are afraid and their parents sometimes don't believe them.
The child also may not know the abuse is wrong or may fear getting in trouble or disrupting the family, said Suzy Williams, program director of the Children's Advocacy Center's Sexual Assault Response Team program, which conducts some of the exams and interviews.
"It's hard to go to another adult and trust them when it is an adult who is hurting you," Williams said.
Recently, within a week, the Sexual Assault Response Team saw two 6-year-olds and a 9-month-old in three separate cases.
"It's horribly sad," Williams said. "There's an incredible amount of abuse out there. It's just not a subject people want to listen to."
The advocacy center's Child Protection Team works with the schools on how to identify signs of sexual abuse. They also have counselors who talk to children in schools and in neighborhood programs.
"Our message to children is don't keep the secret," said Maryann Barry, chief executive officer of the advocacy center, which handled 516 child sex cases in 2005 and so far this year about 470.
More coordination between the advocacy center, law enforcement agencies and the State Attorney's Office is helping in gathering evidence and interviewing children as soon as possible, officials said.
"In my opinion, I don't think they should ever come out (of jail)," Barry said, referring to child sex abuse perpetrators. "You should lose your right to go out in society and should be placed where you can no longer harm a child again. The scars are forever in a child."
The Volusia County Sheriff's Sex Crimes Unit investigated 260 sex crime cases against children 15 and under in 2005. Sixty-nine cases were sent to the State Attorney's Office and 55 resulted in arrests warrants and eight in search warrants, said Sgt. Cynthia Gambrell, who oversees the unit.
About 220 sex crime cases were investigated by the unit from January to October this year and 57 cases have been sent to the State Attorney's Office. There have been 25 arrest warrants, according to the Sheriff's Office.
"We do enjoy locking up the bad guys and when we lock them up, we usually lock them up for a long time," Gambrell said.
Shannon Peters, an assistant state attorney, said not every case goes to trial. Often, she said, the family or victims prefer to resolve the case and have the suspect take a plea that could result in a lesser sentence to avoid having the child testify. The State Attorney's Office does not keep statistics on how many child sex abuse cases have been prosecuted.
Peters said some cases she's handled that dealt with fondling resulted in probation or up to 30 years in prison. In some sexual battery cases, people have gone to prison for life, she said.
Part of the problem with prosecuting such cases, Peters said, is lack of physical evidence if the child does not tell someone about the abuse right away.
Peters and other law enforcement officials say the key is for children to tell an adult if something is happening to them or one of their friends. She tells children, "it's not your fault. You need to tell and bad people do go to prison for doing these things to children."
Abuse in foster homes pegged at about 5 percent
DAYTONA BEACH -- The number of children abused while living in foster homes is generally less than 5 percent.
Local investigators looking at foster homes, group homes or other shelters between January and September found indications of abuse or neglect with 65 of the 1,666 foster children, about 3.9 percent. That compares to 5.6 percent statewide, child welfare figures show.
The abuse wasn't necessarily by the foster parent, but may have occurred while the children were in day care or could have also included children hitting each other, said Ron Zychowski, president and CEO of Community Based Care of Volusia/Flagler Counties, which provides local foster care services for the state.
When speaking about the recent arrest of George Goolde, president of the local foster parent association charged with molesting four children in his care, Zychowski said, "It is rare."
"Foster parents are very hurt by the fact that somebody who professes to be a foster parent and about kids would do that," Zychowski said. "That casts a bad name and sheds a bad light on everybody."
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, agreed most foster parents do not abuse children in their home. But he said academic studies show conservatively that one-fourth to one-third of foster children will be abused in care.
Last week, a Polk County foster parent was arrested in connection with a 3-month-old who suffered life-threatening injuries after two weeks in foster care.
Wexler said part of the reason for the difference in reported numbers of abuse could be that children may not want to speak up until after they are safely out of the system.
He said the solution would be to take away fewer children from their parents so foster homes won't be overcrowded and there will be "less temptation to look the other way for signs of maltreatments in foster care."
What to Look For
Signs of sexual abuse, according to the Children's Advocacy Center:
· Physical signs of a sexually transmitted disease.
· Evidence of injury to the genital area.
· Pregnancy in a young girl.
· Difficulty sitting or walking.
· Frequent expressions of sexual activity between adult and child.
· Extreme fear of being alone with adults of a certain sex.
· Sexually suggestive, inappropriate or promiscuous behavior.
· Knowledge of sexual relations beyond what is expected for a child's age.
· Sexual victimization of other children.
The center tells children that if someone hurts them, they have the right to tell. Such hurting may be physical such as hitting; sexual by touching under their bathing suit or underwear, or verbal by calling them names or making them feel bad with words. Other advice:
· If someone touches you and it makes you feel funny or weird, you have the right to ask questions, to say no and to get away.
· It is your body and you have the right to be safe and feel good about yourself.
· If someone hurts you, it is never your fault.
· If someone has hurt you physically, sexually or verbally, tell someone.
· If someone has hurt you and told you not to tell, tell anyway.
· Tell your mom, your dad, your grandparents, a friend's parents, a teacher, or another grown-up.
· If you tell someone and they don't believe you, keep telling until you find someone who does. Someone will believe you.
· Don't be afraid. The person you tell may be able to make the hurting stop.
· It doesn't matter how long ago it happened, you can still tell.
· You are a beautiful, valuable person and it is never OK for someone to hurt you. So tell.
Dec 16, 2006 1:00 pm US/Pacific
Police Investigate 8-Month-Old Boy's Death
(CBS) NORWALK, Calif. An 8-month-old boy's death is being investigated by police in Norwalk Friday night, authorities said.
Paramedics were called to the 14600 block of Thornlake Avenue, near Norwalk Boulevard, at 6:18 p.m. after a child was reported in full cardiac arrest, Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatch supervisor Ed Pickett said.
The baby was taken to Downey Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Paul Schrader said.
Man charged with sexual assault of woman, child
BY LEIGH ANN WELLS
WILLIAMSON, W.Va. - A Pike County man has been jailed on multiple charges after police say he abducted and raped both a woman and a child in separate incidents before attempting to elude police in two states.
Matthew Casey, 36, of Aflex, was arrested Thursday evening and charged with kidnaping, first-degree sodomy, first-degree rape and first-degree robbery in connection with the abduction of the woman earlier that day, said Kentucky State Police (KSP) Trooper Scott Hopkins. Charges are pending connected to the alleged abduction of the 5-year-old victim, who was not related to the woman or Casey.
About 9:47 a.m., police received a call reporting a kidnaping at the South Williamson Wal-Mart. KSP Trooper Jason McClellan and Det. Kevin Newsome responded to the scene and were told that at about 6:30 a.m. an unnamed adult female was in her Ford Focus in the supercenter parking lot when she was approached by an adult male, later identified as Casey.
The victim rolled down her window and Casey allegedly assaulted her, then forced his way into the vehicle. He then took the victim to a remote area of Pike County where she was sexually assaulted, police said. She then was able to escape with her vehicle, Hopkins said.
Casey obtained another vehicle and fled to West Virginia, and all surrounding state, county and local agencies were notified of the suspect's information, police said.
About 9:53 p.m., Post 9 was notified that the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) and Mingo County Sheriff's deputies were in pursuit of the suspect heading toward the Kentucky state line on U.S. 119. During the pursuit, Casey struck two WVSP cruisers. WVSP Trooper R.G. Flippen said yesterday there was minimal damage to the cruisers struck by Casey during the pursuit.
KSP troopers met the pursuit at the Harvey Street Bridge that connects West Virginia and Kentucky and the vehicle was stopped, Hopkins said.
After the arrest, it was discovered that Casey had the 5-year-old girl in the vehicle with him. Further investigation revealed he had allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted the child. The girl is currently in the custody of the Kentucky Department of Social Services and was taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center for treatment of her injuries.
Hopkins said that there is no connection between Casey and his two alleged victims nor any connection between the victims.
Casey appeared in Pike County District Court yesterday morning with visible scratches on his face. District Judge Darrel Mullins issued a $1 million full-cash bond and Casey is still lodged in the Pike County Detention Center. Casey is to have no violations of the law, no contact with the alleged victim and no contact with anyone under 18 years of age.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 21.
Hopkins said the KSP will be working with all jurisdictions involved including the eastern district of the Kentucky U.S. Attorney's Office determine what, if any, other charges will be filed.
Casey was recently released from the Southwestern Regional Jail in Holden, W.Va.
On Oct. 2, Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury signed an order releasing Casey from custody. The order came after a status hearing on Sept. 29 in connection with a Dec. 14, 2005 arrest in which Casey was charged with first-degree assault, kidnaping and assault during commission of a felony. On Feb. 23, Casey waived the right to a preliminary hearing and the charges were bound over for grand jury consideration. The charges were presented to the grand jury at the commencement of the September 2006 term, in which a “no bill” was returned, requiring Casey to be released from incarceration.