||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
JAN - Week 1
Spanish families renew search for stolen babies
Countless babies were taken from mothers who fell afoul of the Franco regime, and many women have died without learning their children's fate. Now activists are stepping up pressure on Spain's justice system to ease their search for answers.
by Hazel Healy, Los Angeles Times
January 7, 2011
Reporting from Madrid
Emilia Giron never forgot her second son. She wanted to name him Jesus, but he was taken from her in the hospital to be baptized and was never returned.
He was stolen while she was imprisoned by Gen. Francisco Franco's regime, in the early 1940s, after the country's bitter civil war.
"I felt that anguish all my life," Giron told a historian 60 years later. "I carried him for nine months and I never got to know him. Pain like that does not go away. I will take it with me into the next life."
Giron died at 95 in 2007, five years after telling her story to historian Ricard Vinyes, who was also jailed by the Franco dictatorship. She never found out what happened to Jesus.
Her baby boy was one of thousands of children who were reportedly separated from their parents in the 1940s during a little-known chapter of the repression that followed the 1936-'39 Spanish Civil War, a practice that would have a terrible echo decades later in Argentina's "dirty war."
Giron's ordeal and that of other parents were immortalized by the 2002 documentary "The Lost Children of Franco," which Vinyes helped make. And now activists are stepping up pressure on Spain's justice system to ease their search for the victims of the sinister campaign.
Under Franco's far-right regime, she was considered morally unfit to raise a child because she was the sister of an outlawed guerrilla leader.
Military psychologist Antonio Vallejo-Nagera built the ideological framework for the practice of taking children from their parents. He saw Marxism as a form of mental illness that was polluting the Hispanic race and advocated that children of leftists be removed and re-educated, a process he termed "separating the wheat from the chaff."
An unknown number of infants were taken from women's prisons. In addition, some Republican child evacuees were repatriated without their parents' consent and interned in Social Aid homes for schooling in religious and nationalist ideology. Many were adopted by right-wing families.
A law passed in 1941 allowed the state to change the surnames of children in their care. Original records were tampered with, destroyed or simply closed to information seekers, and the victims' past became virtually untraceable.
When Franco died in 1975, the abuses of his regime were swept under the carpet in the interest of a smooth transition to democracy. In a country still littered with unmarked mass graves, the past has remained untouchable and hugely contentious.
Unlike Argentina, Spain has had no truth commission or trials.
In 2008, Spanish Judge Balthazar Garzon catapulted the fate of the "lost children" into the public spotlight as part of a wider investigation of human rights abuses during Franco's 37-year dictatorship. But his efforts met with fierce resistance. Accused of violating the terms of Spain's amnesty law, Garzon has been indicted on charges of abusing his power.
Garzon's case has stalled, but it broke society's unwritten pact of silence and spurred more families to come forward.
In addition to the children taken after the civil war for Franco's brand of political cleansing, child thefts continued into the 1960s and beyond, hundreds of families say, targeting mothers who were vulnerable under the Franco regime.
The later cases also were politically tinged, but the families allege that it was crooked doctors and midwives who stole newborns from clinics, motivated by personal gain.
Blanca Guerrero is searching for her brother, Miguel Angel, who was born June 5, 1945.
Her mother, Agustina, was from a family of known Republicans but was not herself politically active. After being pressured to have her child at a Madrid clinic where she worked, she was told that her son was stillborn. But she always told her daughter that she had felt him moving. Agustina died in 2009.
The case of Guerrero's brother is among those taken up by Mar Soriano, who is heading a campaign to trace the babies stolen in the later years of the dictatorship. Soriano is looking for her sister, Beatriz, who was born at a clinic in Madrid on Jan. 3, 1964.
"The babies were taken from poor, unprotected people," Soriano said in a telephone interview. "It was rooted in an 'anything goes' culture of impunity. If you knew the right people, I believe you could just buy someone else's newborn."
Soriano recounted that her mother gave birth to a "chubby, beautiful and peaceful" girl. But she was discharged from the hospital without the child, who doctors claimed was ill.
Her mother continued bringing milk to the clinic until she was told that the baby had died of an ear infection. The clinic staff said, "We'll take care of everything," and told her that Beatriz had already been buried in a mass grave.
Soriano and fellow activists are putting pressure on Spain's justice system. They petitioned state prosecutor Javier Zaragoza at the High Court twice last month.
But so far Zaragoza has ruled out legal action. Instead, he has suggested that the Justice Ministry set up a DNA bank.
Seekers need the authorities' cooperation to access archives and open records that are essential to the search.
"This is not about what side you are on," Soriano said. "Families have always lived with this terrible doubt, with this sense of loss. This is about the search for the truth."
Police to focus on woods, river in search for missing teen in TX
by Phil Rosenbaum , New York
(CNN) -- Investigators and rescue teams will continue their search Friday for a missing 13-year-old Texas girl, focusing near a densely-wooded area and along the Colorado River.
Meanwhile, Hailey Dunn's mother, Billie Dunn, told HLN's Nancy Grace that she and her live-in boyfriend, Shawn Adkins, both failed polygraph exams.
Adkins was the last person to see the eighth-grade cheerleader on December 27 at Dunn's home in Colorado City, according to local reports.
Colorado City -- a rural central Texas town -- is about 70 miles west of Abilene, Texas.
Hailey reportedly told Adkins she was going to visit her father and then a friend. Hailey's father, Clint Dunn, says she often came to his home, but did not on that day.
Dunn said she took the polygraph test after she was informed that Adkins had failed.
Woodrow Tripp, a polygraph expert, told Nancy Grace that troubles him.
''That absolutely would cause major problems emotionally as she's administered one. You want to try to minimize that as much as possible.''
Dunn did not say who administered the exam during which she says she was asked if she knew anything about or caused Hailey's disappearance and whether she feared any questions.
The night Hailey vanished, Dunn says she thought her daughter was sleeping over at a friend's house.
Asked why she did not confirm Hailey's location before going to bed that night, Dunn said, ''I just don't have an answer for that. I wish I would have called to tell her goodnight.''
Dunn says police questioned her for more than 10 hours on Wednesday.
She met Adkins on the MySpace social networking site more than two years ago and he moved in with her several months ago.
Initially, police considered Hailey a runaway but the case is now a missing person. However, a Texas Amber Alert has not been issued, reportedly because no one saw Hailey being abducted.
Hailey is 5'1, 120 pounds, has hazel eyes, and brown hair with blond streaks.
When she disappeared, she was wearing navy blue sweat pants, a light-colored short sleeve T-shirt, and pink and white tennis shoes.
Fort Lauderdale, FL, Man Convicted on 1974 & 1977 Child Enticement and Transportation Charges
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, announce yesterday's conviction of defendant George Joseph England, 66, of Fort Lauderdale, on three counts of enticement of a minor and two counts of transportation of a minor from Asia to California in 1974 and from California to Florida in 1977 for the purpose of having the minor engage in sexual acts. Sentencing for England is scheduled for March 24, 2011 before U.S. District Court Judge Jose A. Gonzalez. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, England met the victim in Vietnam in the early 1970s when the victim was approximately 4 years old. Soon thereafter, England traveled with the victim to Thailand and India, where they lived for approximately two years. While there, England sexually assaulted the victim repeatedly. He also taught her to never trust the police and warned her that without him she would be forced into a life of prostitution.
In or around 1974, England transported the victim to Costa Mesa, California, where they lived for the next three years. While in California, England continued to sexually assault the victim, including forcing her to engage in vaginal intercourse and bestiality. England also encouraged the victim to invite her friends to spend the night in their motor home. England mounted a Plexiglas box with a hidden camera in the bathroom of the motor home so that he could watch the victim and her friends in the bathtub. He also took nude photos of the young girls.
On October 20, 1977, England was convicted by a California jury of molesting three of the victim's friends, ages 9 to 10 years old. After the verdict, England fled to northern California with the then 10-year-old victim. While in northern California, England obtained the birth certificate of a child named Steven Arthur Seagoe who had died soon after childbirth. England then assumed Seagoe's identity. England also gave the victim a new name before boarding a bus bound for Ft. Lauderdale. An arrest warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear for sentencing in the California case.
According to evidence presented during the trial, soon after arriving in Ft. Lauderdale, England continued to sexually assault the victim almost daily. He also drilled a hole in the wall of the victim's bedroom and watched from an adjacent bathroom the victim engage in sexual activity with her friends. In 1980, the victim became pregnant at the age of 13. She gave birth to child in September of 1981. DNA tests confirmed that England is the biological father of that child. The defendant impregnated the victim several more times over the course of the next four years. The defendant instructed the victim to terminate each pregnancy by getting an abortion. According to the victim, the last abortion occurred in 1986 when she was 18 years old. Soon thereafter, the victim warned England that she would kill herself if he did not stop molesting her. The victim moved out of England's residence when she got married in 1988. She terminated all contact with him in 1994.
In 2004, the victim disclosed the abuse to the FBI and provided information on England's alias to assist law enforcement in arresting him on the outstanding California arrest warrant from 1977. On May 18, 2005, agents from the Diplomatic Security Service and Department of Homeland Security arrested England at his home in Ft. Lauderdale. He was charged with having obtained a passport in his false name. In July 2005, England pled guilty to passport fraud. He was later sentenced to 14 months' imprisonment.
After serving the passport fraud sentence, England was extradited to California and sentenced to three consecutive terms of three years to life imprisonment on the 1977 child molestation case from which he had fled to Ft. Lauderdale. After serving almost four years of that sentence, he was scheduled to be released from jail in California on March 12, 2010. Prior to his release, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida filed a complaint charging England with offenses related to his enticement and transportation of the victim.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer stated, “Yesterday's guilty verdict brings to an end this international decades-long tragedy of child abuse and exploitation. Although nothing can restore a child's lost innocence, we hope that the verdict will at least help heal deep wounds and provide victims of abuse with hope and trust in our justice system.”
John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Miami Office stated, “George England adopted a helpless child so he could control and rape her at his whim. Despite the passage of time, it took incredible strength for the victim to come forward and share her ordeal. Nothing can bring back her innocence but the guilty verdict brings some justice to her and the other victims of England's violent and unforgivable crimes.”
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Diplomatic Security Service and Department of Homeland Security. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Dispoto and Corey Steinberg.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
Father, grandparents must pay $150,000 cost of search for missing boys in Anaheim, CA
January 6, 2011
A father and his parents who abducted two Anaheim boys in a custody dispute have been ordered to reimburse police for the $150,000 cost of searching for the missing children, authorities said Thursday.
Abraham Fernandez, 23, and his father, Louis Mendoza Fernandez, 52, both of Houston, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Orange County to two felony counts of child abduction. They were sentenced Wednesday to 270 days in jail.
Abraham Fernandez's mother, Elizabeth Fernandez, 42, of Houston, also pleaded guilty to two felony counts of child abduction and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
The court ordered the three to pay restitution for the cost of the intense police investigation and search into the Oct. 7 abduction of brothers Justin Quinones, 2, and Jacob Quinones, 4, from their mother's Anaheim apartment complex. Police said a custody dispute triggered the abduction.
The final restitution cost, which officials are still tabulating but is already up to $150,000, will be split between the three, said Sgt. Eric Trapp of the Anaheim Police Department.
"Anytime you have the kidnapping of a child, you are going to put all sorts of resources into it," Trapp said.
"It was a huge priority" that required officers to work around the clock to track down the boys, he said.
The children were found Nov. 2 when Elizabeth Fernandez turned herself and the children in to authorities in Harris County, Texas.
The decision to seek restitution is made "on a case-by-case basis," said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman with the Orange County district attorney's office.
"It would be determined at the end of a case and could be based on multiple factors," she said. "In a case like this, it could be man-hours and resources used."
LAPD seeks public's help in finding registered child sex offender
January 5, 2011
Los Angeles police Wednesday were looking for a registered child sex offender who discarded his tracking device and fled his Pacoima residence.
John Howard Marble, 49, is considered extremely dangerous and is known to frequent Van Nuys Boulevard, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Marble is described as white with blond hair and blue eyes. He is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 220 pounds, police said. He has a close-shaved goatee.
Authorities received an alarm that was triggered Tuesday afternoon after Marble removed his GPS monitor. Officers found the device beneath his bed, according to the LAPD.
Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Monica McPartland at (818) 834-3115 . During non-business hours or on weekends, calls may be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 . Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS ( 800-222-8477.
Man sentenced in Craigslist sex sting in CA
January 5, 2011
A Mission Viejo man caught in a Craigslist sting soliciting a 13-year-old girl for sex pleaded guilty Tuesday to four felony charges.
Howard Houchen Wang, 38, pleaded guilty to attempting lewd acts upon a child younger than 14, luring a child with the intent to commit a crime, meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct and exhibition of lewd material to a minor at the West Justice Center in Westminster, according to court records.
Wang was sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison, according to records.
Wang was arrested and booked into the Huntington Beach Jail on May 11 after he began talking to Huntington Beach detectives posing as a 13-year-old girl on Craigslist, police reported.
He sent her e-mails and pictures of himself before he drove to Huntington Beach to meet the girl. He had arranged to pay her for sex, police reported.
Wang was the fourth man in five months to be arrested by Huntington Beach police in a Craigslist or online sting. The department has since arrested two more suspects.
Texas Refuses to Issue Amber Alert for Missing Girl
The 13-Year-Old Texas Cheerleader Hailey Dunn Has Been Missing a Week
A small Texas town is upset that the state is refusing to issue an Amber Alert for a 13-year-old cheerleader who has been missing for more than a week.
The Colorado City Police have requested the alert three times since Hailey Dunn, a middle school student, was reported missing Dec. 28 by her mother, Billie Dunn.
The girl was thought to be spending Monday night at a nearby friend's home, but did not return home the next morning, the police said. The friend later said she was not expecting a visit from Dunn.
The cheerleader headed out around 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 27, first going to her dad's house and then supposedly to the friend's house.
Billie Dunn's boyfriend, Shawn Adkins, was the last person to see the girl, the mother told police. It was Adkins who reportedly said the girl was spending the night at a friend's home. Adkins was scheduled to take a polygraph exam today.
"We can't say one way or another if she is abducted or is a runway," City Manager Peter Kampfer told ABC News. "One of the requirements that they have for an Amber Alert in the state is that there is a witness or we have some sort of evidence that she's been picked up or been threatened. That's one of the qualifiers."
Kampfer is frustrated by the state's guidelines for issuing alerts at a time when help is needed.
"I would like to see it a little bit broadened. I don't hear many Amber Alerts in this area of Texas. In fact, I can't remember the last one I've heard," he told ABC News. "You'd like to be able to think you could invoke a request and get some help."
Police Chief John Bivens said the minimum standard for creating an Amber Alert is "knowledge of a suspect, a description of a vehicle involved in an abduction and/or a route and direction of travel."
Right now, the town does not have such information.
"We're having an ongoing investigation. As of today we're just following up on the initial leads and of course we have leads that are coming in from the public," Kampfer said. "We have nothing substantive at this time."
This case is currently being investigated by the local police, county sheriff and the Texas Rangers.
On Friday, bloodhounds were taken to the six motels in Colorado City. At one of them, the Western Suites, which is adjacent to Interstate 20 and near the Dunn home, the dogs picked up on the girl's scent in the parking lot. It led to a ground-floor room, but no further. A search of all 24 rooms produced no other evidence.
Colorado City, a town of only 5,000 people between the Odessa/Midland area and Abilene, has raised a $10,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts and safe return of Dunn.
Since the statewide Amber Alert program started in August 2002, there have been 65 alerts including nine last year, according to Tela Mange a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Public Safety. There are separate local and regional systems that issue other alerts.
Mange said alerts can only be issued when somebody who is 17 or younger is missing and the disappearance has been deemed "unwilling." Police then need to show that the child is in immediate danger and eliminated other scenarios such as a runaway. Finally, there needs to be some other information such as a description of the abductor's vehicle in order to issue an alert.
"People sometimes get wrapped around the idea that the Amber Alert will solve everything. Well, the police work is what is going to do it," Mange said.
The Amber Alert program is a partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The system launched in 1996 and is named in memory of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then murdered.