Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Child abuse case goes to trial

by Rob Ireland

July 12, 2012

ELKHORN — As a punishment for refusing to pick weeds, the parents of a 12-year-old boy allegedly forced him to pick poison ivy.

Martin and Kathleen O’Brien, both 49, of Bloomfield, are accused of abusing their six adopted children, four of whom are from the former Soviet Union.

During a preliminary hearing Friday afternoon, Judge John Race found enough evidence to bind the O’Briens over for trial. The O’Briens are scheduled for a July 31 arraignment.

The O’Briens each face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges for alleged physical abuse, which include incidents where Kathleen used pepper spray on a child and another where she stabbed a child in the hand. The O’Briens are also accused of forcing the children to stand naked on a porch while the O’Briens ate dinner with their biological children, according to the criminal complaint.

During the hearing, Martin’s defense attorney, Kathleen Stilling, introduced a report from Bloomfield Investigator Lori Domino into evidence.

The report, which became part of the court file, indicates that Child Protective Services began making contact with the O’Briens in 2008 after receiving a report of the children standing outside of the home naked.

In 2008, the caseworker was told the punishment was for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The caseworker was told the O’Briens read a book on RAD treatment, which outlined treatment for children with the disease.

According to Domino’s report:

On Aug. 3, 2011, Domino observed some of the interviews that were being performed on the children at the Walworth County Health and Human Services Child Protection Services.

One of the children reported that Martin forced him to cut down trees, which he didn’t mind. However, the child was afraid of the dark and Martin allegedly forced him to continue to chop down trees in the dark.

Another child, who is 17, said the children weren’t allowed to read books because a book was once accidentally damaged.

The O’Briens biological children were also interviewed. A 19-year-old told Paula Hockings, a child forensic interviewer, that he was told by his parents he didn’t have to talk to her.

“I don’t have to talk to you because of my First and Fifth Amendment Rights,” he said.

In Domino’s report, she also writes that in the past seven years, while driving by the residence, she has only seen the adopted children, never the biological ones, performing yard work.

According to Domino’s report from the search warrant:

On Aug. 17, 2011, police arrived at the O’Briens’ residence with a search warrant and temporary custody orders. The warrant and custody order were provided to Martin.

Kathleen then came outside and Domino told her about the search warrant. Martin then told Kathleen that they were taking the children away, and, according to Domino’s report, Kathleen began shaking and grabbing her face.

Outside of the home, Domino observed that the pool was never opened for the summer and a swing set and slide was covered “with years of birds feces.”

When in the home, Domino entered a bedroom, which appeared to belong to the couples’ biological children. The room had two flat-screen televisions and video games. Clothes and other clutter were on the room’s floor.

She entered two other bedrooms, both of which appeared to belong to adopted children. Neither room had televisions or video games. Domino reported that there weren’t many clothes in the closet. Both rooms were without clutter and the beds were made.

Domino also entered a padlocked basement, which Martin had to open for her. In the basement police located filing cabinets with drawers with the children’s names on them.

In the home, Domino recovered binders with the children’s names on it. The notes were apparently kept by Kathleen O’Brien.

In a letter to an unknown person, Kathleen compares the children to dogs. In a letter to Martin, Kathleen calls the children evil.

“While I do not wish to allow them to rob us of any more joy,” Domino reports seeing in Kathleen’s notes.

Her documents also included homework assignments she gave to the children, one of which was about an incident where a child stole food. On the homework assignment, Kathleen calls the child a liar.

The notes also indicate:

n Kathleen fed one of the children broth for breakfast.

n That she was mad that a doctor said she didn’t love one of the children “unconditionally.”

n It also states, that on Jan. 29, 2009, one of the children was sent to walk to Walmart. Domino reports that on that day reported the temperature at 19 degrees with wind chill. Domino also reports that Google maps indicates the O’Brien’s home is 2.9 miles from Walmart.