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The human toll of child abuse in the Army

Jul. 29, 2013 - 12:28PM   |  

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Army Times takes an in-depth look at child abuse:

Couple charged in death

Caitlyn Metz said she left her apartment for two hours on an errand to the store and when she returned home and she found her 23-month-old son unresponsive in bed.

The next day, on Feb. 8, 2009, Keegan Andrew Metz was dead, succumbing to horrific injuries that included severe trauma to the forehead and evidence of sodomy. Based on medical evidence and other investigation findings, Metz and her husband, former Spc. Joshua Ryan Starner, await trial in Clarksville, Tenn., charged with murder and rape. No further details were available, nor was an explanation about why Keegan’s mother was also charged with rape and murder.

Starner enlisted in July 2006 and served in Iraq from September 2007 to October 2008. An 11C indirect fire infantryman, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. He was discharged in May 2010.

Mishandling an Xbox

Eight-year-old RJ will probably have to be fed through a tube for the rest of his life because his mother’s boyfriend, Sgt. Rocky Donadio, beat him so badly that doctors had to remove part of his pancreas and intestines.

Donadio beat him after the boy accidentally deleted Donadio’s Xbox “Grand Theft Auto” profile. Donadio is serving a 75-year sentence on related charges for the 2009 assault at Fort Sill, Okla.

He was charged in August 2010, nine months after his girlfriend’s son RJ was hospitalized with serious permanent injuries. It took the jury 30 minutes to convict Donadio.

He was discharged after his conviction and busted to E-1.

RJ’s mother, Misty Stobaugh was also charged and convicted of abusing RJ. She will be released from prison this summer, according to Oklahoma corrections department records.

Donadio’s last assignment was with 2nd Battalion, 5th Artillery Regiment, 75th Fires Brigade at Fort Sill. He was a radio operator-maintainer who was deployed for a year in Iraq from November 2005 to November 2006. He was awarded three Army Achievement Medals, three Good Conduct Medals and an Army Commendation Medal.

Crying too much

Kevin Randal Hill, 32, is serving a 144-month prison sentence for the brutal beating of his 5-month-old daughter while his wife was away from home for a field exercise in January 2011. He was at home after a recent medical discharge, but was living on Fort Sill with his wife, Casey Barnett Ruiz, an active-duty soldier.

In a written confession, Hill admitted beating Liyah when she would not stop crying, then slammed the baby onto a couch and pushed his weight onto her, causing her to stop breathing.

“I went to the field and came back and she was on her deathbed,” said Ruiz, a diesel mechanic who has since remarried and remains at Fort Sill.

Liyah, now almost 3, survived but is severely disabled.

“She can’t walk, she can’t talk,” Ruiz told Army Times. “She can’t crawl, she’s wheelchair-bound.”

Ruiz said her daughter has a 15-year life expectancy.

Hill joined the Army in 2002 and served until March 2010 when he was discharged for a non-combat-related injury. He was a food service specialist who did two tours in Afghanistan and five months in Iraq.

At sentencing, Hill’s defense presented testimony and evidence that Hill suffered from post-traumatic stress, a claim his former wife vehemently disputes.

“He was never diagnosed with PTSD before this happened,” she said.

Hill was also ordered to pay more than $1.2 million into a fund to cover the baby’s lifetime medical care, though his ex-wife said she doesn’t expect to see any of that money.

Because Liyah’s condition makes it impossible for Ruiz to deploy, she said she is being kicked out of the Army.

“The Army is forcing me to choose between Liyah and the Army, and I’d choose her before the Army every day,” she said.

Planning for life after the Army, Ruiz is taking nursing classes four nights a week, getting home at 9 p.m. to relieve her mother, who cares for Liyah.

“We’re trying to get a fundraiser together to buy her a handicap van,” she said, adding that the vehicle will cost between $50,000 and $70,000.

Hill has been discharged. While he was in the Army, Hill received four Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals and two Good Conduct Medals.

The torture of Malik

The Comanche County, Okla., assistant district attorney told the jury that 1st Lt. Lancey D. Ray “tortured” his 10-year-old stepson, Malik Ray. On the day Malikdied, Ray had been disciplining him most of the day because he wanted a different lunch than Ray offered. He forced Malik to stand outside in freezing temperatures and stand at attention for extended periods of time and beat him with a belt. Malik did not survive the ordeal.

Ray is serving life behind bars for the first-degree murder of Malik. Malik’s mother, Denise Ray, was later charged with enabling child abuse because she allegedly hit the child with a board so hard that she broke it. Her trial date has not been set.

Lancey Ray, 40, entered the Army in 1997, rising to the rank of sergeant before going to Officer Candidate School and earning his commission in 2009. He was a field artillery officer when he was discharged after his conviction. He deployed to Iraq from March 2006 to April 2007, Army records show. He earned three Army Commendations Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and three Good Conduct Medals.

Fatally failing Talia

Spc. Naeem Williams obtained custody of his daugther in December 2004. Seven months later, she was dead and he was in jail, charged with first-degree murder and facing the death penalty. The infantryman is scheduled to go to trial in January for allegedly beating 5-year-old Talia Williams to death. Talia’s stepmother, Delilah Williams, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing. She is expected to testify against Spc. Williams.

Talia’s mother, Tarshia Williams, who lives in South Carolina, has sued the Army for its failure to protect Talia from her family despite significant evidence that Talia was being abused during her seven months at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Her lawsuit contends many in the Army failed to intervene or ask questions that might have saved her daughter’s life.

The Army tried to have the case thrown out, but senior U.S. District Judge Alan C. Kay ruled in April 2010 that her case could go forward. In a 42-page opinion Kay quoted then-Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, saying “the death of Talia Williams followed a series of missed opportunities to potentially prevent the death of the child.” Mixon was commander of the 25th Infantry Division at the time and noted that he directed an investigation of the case, which indicated the [Family Advocacy Program Manager] was negligent in her duty to report suspected child abuse.”

According to court records, Schofield military police were called July 16, 2005, to Talia’s home, where she was unresponsive and had no pulse. She was pronounced dead at Wahiawa General Hospital that day.

“EMS discovered bruises on Talia’s arms, chest, knees and thighs, as well as a small laceration on her back,” court records said.

In a sworn statement in court documents, Spc. Williams “confessed to striking Talia on numerous occasions beginning on March 15 in order to ‘discipline’ Talia, including on July 16, causing her death.”

Delilah Williams told agents that on the day Talia died, Spc. Williams spanked Talia with his belt for wetting herself. Later in the afternoon, Spc. Williams went to check on Talia and learned that she had wet herself again.

“Naeem Williams yelled at Talia to get in the shower and he hit her in the hallway,” the document says. “Talia fell from the blow. Naeem Williams then picked up Talia, put her in the bathtub and poured water on her. She did not regain consciousness.”

Talia’s room had no mattress, no blankets and no furniture as they had all been removed by her parents “as a form of punishment,” the document says. The complaint says that “blood spatters could be seen throughout the Williams residence.” Talia’s room had “blood splatters on the walls … caused by Naeem Williams ‘whipping’ Talia with his belt on Talia’s back ‘bursting open’ the scars.”

According to the court records, Williams frequently duct-taped Talia to a bunk bed post, covering her eyes and mouth with duct tape — “so she couldn’t scream” or see — and then he whipped her with a belt “for more an hour at a time.” At times, Williams and his wife withheld food from Talia for days at a time and sometimes they made her “squat like a duck” as a “disciplinary intervention.” The court record indicates that this treatment went on for months.

But the Army had plenty of warning that Talia was in danger.

According to the court records, five months earlier, in February, Criminal Investigative Command agent Michael Parker was notified by MPs that employees at the Schofield Barracks Child Development Center saidthat marks on Talia’s body made them suspect she was a victim of child abuse. When the development center employee asked Talia about the marks, she said they were “bug bites, her mother hit her, her father hit her and spider bites as well,” according to court documents.

CID agents asked the development center employees to take Talia to the acute care center at Schofield Barracks to be examined by a doctor. The doctor, identified in court records as Dr. Mark Schmalz, examined Talia and concluded it was not child abuse.

“I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, but about 99, 98 to 99 percent certainty that it was not abuse,” he is quoted as telling the CID agent in charge. Schmalz has not responded to Army Times’ request for comment.

While Schmalz was examining Talia, CID says it did a background check on Williams and his wife and found nothing suspicious. Based upon the doctor’s opinion, and the lack of suspicious information in the background checks, CID did not inform Hawaii Child Protective Services — as called for in an agreement between the Army and the state of Hawaii. After the doctor’s conclusion and the results of the background check on Naeem and Delilah Williams, CID handed Talia back to her parents.

But according to court records, the Williams household had been the subject of several domestic violence reports in January and February 2005. And in June — a month before Talia was killed — MPs received a call from a neighbor reporting that there was a child screaming in the Williams home. The MPs responded and found Talia “upstairs in a room, naked and mute, standing near feces on the floor” with scratches on her face, according to court records. Her father told the MPs she was scratched by a friend. The MPs took no action and left Talia in the home.

The death of Harmone'e

Pfc. Roderick L. Elam Jr., 21, was convicted in January of causing the brain and liver injuries that led to the 2011 death of 2-month-old Harmone’e Elam.

Elam was an automated logistics specialist assigned to Fort Carson, Colo. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison, according to the court records.

Elam’s wife, Lakeria Shazarea Grant, 21, also is charged with child abuse resulting in death, accused of failing to act upon her daughter’s medical needs. She faces an August trial, according to the Colorado court records.

Police allege that she and her husband waited until Harmone’e stopped breathing before calling 911.

Under questioning by police, Elam eventually admitted to the use of force against the girl, including squeezing her abdomen between his legs and hitting her on the back of the head. He also claimed the child knocked her head on a bathtub soap tray, The (Colorado Springs) Gazette reported.

Elam entered the Army in June 2010 and was assigned to Fort Carson in January 2011. He was discharged in September 2012.

A convicted molester

Spc. Joseph Allsop, 29, was sentenced in February 2012 to two life sentences for the sexual assault and murder of his 5-month-old daughter Jade at Fort Hood, Texas.

Allsop wasn’t a suspect in Jade’s death until he was accused — and confessed to — molesting a boy, a 7-year-old family member.

The coroner had ruled that Jade’s 2005 death was due to “undetermined causes.” But the molestation confession led investigators to learn that when Allsop was 14, he was convicted of molesting a 9-year-old boy in Oregon, according to Shaina Allsop. She said he was supposed to be a registered sex offender.

When Shaina Allsop learned of her husband’s sordid history, she urged investigators to reopen the unexplained death of Jade.

Jade Allsop was home with her dad when she stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital. She was revived once in the ambulance, but died soon thereafter.

Allsop soon wrote a 12-page confession, admitting to molesting Jade, the 7-year-old relative and several other children. When the police confronted Allsop about Jade’s death, his wife said, he admitted that he sexually suffocated her.

Because of the Oregon molestation, Joseph Allsop was a convicted sex offender when he enlisted in 2002. The routine Army background check did not uncover Allsop’s juvenile record. Army Recruiting Command officials point out that many states seal juvenile records to those screening recruits.

The Army relies on face-to-face questioning by recruiters who ask, four times, “Do you have or have you ever had any law violations?” In many cases, according to a recruiting command spokesman, “an applicant who has had violations as a juvenile has no record that recruiters can access. And if he answers the recruiter’s question by responding that he has never had any law violations, there is no way for a recruiter to know otherwise.”

Allsop was subjected to a second background check when he re-entered the Army in April 2007. Again, the juvenile record apparently was not discovered.

In a June 4 congressional hearing on sexual assaults, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno acknowledged that the Army’s background checks are imperfect.

“Background checks are done,” Odierno said, “but the ability to identify sexual offenders is certainly not 100 percent right now. We have to do better job of doing that.”

90 days for 2-time abuser

Spc. Daniel Sheffield pleaded guilty in January 2012 to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. He entered the plea during an appearance before Colorado Springs District Judge Thomas Kennedy, according to The Gazette.

Sheffield, 26, was arrested in July 2011, accused of throwing a bottle at his 8-month-old son, fracturing the baby’s skull. He was sentenced in March 2012 to 90 days in jail and five years of intensive supervision.

A 91B wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to the 43rd Combat Support Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Sheffield called a Colorado Springs police detective in July 2011 to confess he lied to investigators twice in the past day about his son’s injuries, The Gazette reported.

Sheffield and his wife took their son to Evans Army Community Hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with a skull fracture and subdural hematoma, police said, according to The Gazette.

The child was transferred to Memorial Hospital and was released the next afternoon, according to Brian Newsome, the hospital’s spokesman.

Sheffield first told police that he found two large plastic toys in the infant’s playpen, and implied his

5-year-old son dropped them on his brother.

A few hours later, though, he told investigators that he was dancing with the child in his arms when he lost his balance, hitting the 8-month-old’s head on the dining room table.

Sheffield said he concocted the first story to keep his children from being taken away by social services workers since he had a history of child abuse.

Two years earlier, in November 2009, Sheffield was arrested and charged with misdemeanor child abuse after leaving bruises on his son, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in January 2010, according to court records and was given a two-year deferred sentence, as well as 48 hours of community service. He was allowed to stay in the Army, and served a year in Afghanistan. He was discharged in February 2012.

The major and his wife

A federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted an Army major and his wife charging them with 17 counts of abusing their three foster children over five years.

According to the indictment, Maj. John E. Jackson and his wife, Carolyn Jackson, employed “disciplinary and child-rearing techniques that were neglectful and cruel on the Jackson foster/adoptive children.”

The techniques named in the indictment include physically assaulting the adoptive children and their own three biological children.

They abused the adoptive children, the indictment says, by not allowing them to drink water, forcing one to “consume food that caused them pain and suffering such as red pepper flakes, hot sauce and/or raw onion … [and to] ingest excessive sodium, or sodium-laden substances.”

The indictment says the Jacksons ordered their biological children to make sure the thirsty adoptive children did not drink from the toilet.

Prosecutors said the children suffered broken bones from the beatings and the couple didn’t allow the children to get medical attention.

Jackson is a field artillery officer assigned to Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. He and his wife were ordered to have no contact with children.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A trial has not yet been scheduled.

The starvation of Marcus

When Pvt. Connell Williams moved to Fort Sill from Fort Gordon, Ga., in August 2009, he left his wife and two children — both daughters — with their mother.

Williams was soon joined by his girlfriend, Candice Holloway, and her two children, 10-year-old Marcus and 8-year-old Karisma.

Williams applied for on-post housing, telling Fort Sill authorities that Holloway was his wife and the boy and girl were his children.

In the on-post house where Marcus lived, Williams and Holloway withheld food from Marcus and were routinely “beating him about the head and shoulders with a plastic bat, striking on the bottom of his feet with drum sticks … pouring ice cold water on” him “when he was disrespectful or would steal food,” according to court documents.

The court seized a video of Marcus being brutalized by Williams. “Connell made him put on his full 50-60 pounds of gear and march around the living room,” according to Sanford Coats, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

According to the indictment charging Williams with first-degree murder, Marcus was systematically starved and tortured by Williams.

When Marcus, getting only 500 calories a day, tried to steal food, he was beaten. He died of starvation on May 5, 2011. He weighed 44 pounds.

Coats initially sought the death penalty for Pvt. Williams. But he pleaded guilty in February and was sentenced to life behind bars. The next month, he was dishonorably discharged. Holloway was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The plea was entered after two days of trial, causing the presiding judge to say he was forced to “respectfully disagree” with the decision to accept a plea from Williams.

Despite Marcus’ deteriorating condition, neighbors did not seem to notice or question why neither he nor his sister attended school. Although Candace Holloway had no military ID, she moved freely around the post.

According to sources familiar with the case, Pvt. Williams presented his marriage license when applying for housing for his “family.”

He had two daughters yet he registered a boy and girl. No one checked the records.

The Army launched a 15-6 into the incident but stopped the investigation at the request of federal authorities.

Fort Sill officials refused to answer questions about the case.■

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