In honor of baby Lauryn Dickens, whose mother’s fate is being debated in the jury room today, I thought I’d make a list of children who were said to have been sold or given away by their parents or caregivers. Almost none of these stories have any credibility, but there you go. This probably isn’t all of them, but it’s as many as I can come up with right now.
Marlena Danyele Childress, age 3, in 1987. Mom told several different stories about her, once saying she sold her to pay a drug debt. She was charged with second-degree murder of Marlena, but the charge was dropped for lack of evidence. Disturbingly, Mom stabbed her twelve-year-old son in 2002, and his injuries were bad enough that she was charged with attempted murder. Fortunately the boy survived. Mom pleaded no contest and went to prison.
Lauryn Dickens, age 9 months, in 2009. I’ve written about her lately because of her mother’s trial, which is finished and now in deliberation. Mom claimed she gave Lauryn to a complete stranger who showed up at her doorstep and said she’d been sent by the baby’s father to go look after her until Dad got out of jail. The story turned out to be false. Cadaver dogs indicated the presence of human remains in the family’s apartment and Mom was charged with murder.
Gabriel Scott Johnson, age 7 months, in 2009. His mom claims she gave him to a childless couple so they could adopt him, and it was a strictly secret, no-paper deal, and she never learned their identities. She’s awaiting trial for kidnapping, custodial interference and child abuse. The prevailing theory among law enforcement is that she murdered him.
Peter J. Kema Jr., age 6, in 1997. Dad claimed he gave Peter to a distant relative named Rose Makuakane. Problem is, the cops couldn’t find any evidence that this person ever actually existed. Certainly no one else in the Kema family remembers her. It’s been documented that little Peter suffered horrific abuse at home. It’s pretty much assumed that he was murdered by his father, but no charges have been filed against anyone. Fortunately the rest of the Kema children were removed from the home permanently in 1998.
Justina Morales, 8, in 1995. Mom told the neighbors she’d sent Justina to live with her father. In fact, Mom and Mom’s Boyfriend had killed her. It wasn’t until 1997 that the authorities realized she was missing. Mom’s Boyfriend was acquitted of murder, but convicted of second-degree manslaughter, and got six to 19 1/2 years in prison. Mom got five years of probation in exchange for her testimony against the Boyfriend. Pretty sweet deal. Like Karla Homolka sweet.
Princess Perez, age 2, in 1996. She was last seen in June; in August, the Administration of Children’s Services got a report that she was missing and sent someone to the Perez house to check. Mom said Princess was with her grandmother in California, but the ACS was unable to verify that. The story eventually came out that Dad had murdered Princess. When questioned, he said she had in fact gotten sick and died of natural causes in the summer of 1996. Dad has never faced criminal charges, but the family’s other children were taken away because of the alleged homicide.
Michelle Kelly Pulsifer, 3, in 1969. Michelle disappeared in the summer of 1969 and a few days later, her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and her brother abruptly packed their bags and left town, moving to another state without telling anyone. The adults told Michelle’s brother and others that Michelle had gone to live with Mom’s Boyfriend’s mother, despite the fact that that woman was dying of cancer at the time. It wasn’t until over thirty years had passed that anyone realized Michelle was in fact missing. Subsequent investigation showed that she was probably murdered by either her mother’s boyfriend (whom she later married and divorced, and who had a history of violence) or her mother, and both of them covered it up for decades. Both of them were charged with murder. Mom’s Boyfriend died before his trial, but left behind a sworn statement implicating Mom. Mom went through two trials — the first was a hung jury — before finally being acquitted in 2008.
Alexia Anne Reale, age 5, in 1997. Mom and Stepfather said they’d sent Alexia to live with her biological father out of state. In fact, the parents were both on meth and killed their daughter by forcing her to drink bleach over the course of several days until she died. It wasn’t until the Reale’s were investigated for the abuse of Alexia’s sister that this call came out. Both parents were convicted of murder.
Katelyn Selena Rivera-Helton, age 1, in 1999. After forcibly abducting Katelyn from the babysitter’s home, Dad (who didn’t have custody) claimed he randomly ran into a couple at a local horticultural garden and gave Katelyn to them. His story changed about 30 times — no joke — and he was eventually convicted of Katelyn’s murder, although he always maintained his innocence.
Andrew Ryan Skelton, 9, Alexander William Skelton, 7, and Tanner Lucas Skelton, 5, in 2010. Mom and Dad were fighting over custody. During a Thanksgiving court-ordered visit, the kids disappeared and Dad tried to kill himself. He survived and spent some time in a mental hospital. He told the police he’d given the boys to a pastor’s wife named Joann Taylor, whom he’d met online. Later he changed his story and said his sons were with some secret “organization” and they would never be found unless Mom agreed to give up all custody claims. Dad was charged with kidnapping, and in 2011 he pleaded guilty to three counts of false imprisonment and got ten to fifteen years in prison.
Aleacia Di’onne Stancil, age 9 months, in 1994. Mom said she gave the baby to a slight acquaintance she knew only as “Dee” and never saw either of them again. Mom didn’t report Aleacia missing until three months later, and less than a year after that she herself was murdered.
Logan Lynn Tucker, age 6, in 2002. Mom told various people that Logan had been taken by the Department of Human Services, when she’d actually murdered him. Sadly enough, if Mom had waited a few days more, Logan WOULD have been taken by the DHS. He was on the waiting list for a place in a residential treatment center to address his behavioral problems. (No word as to whether he actually needed residential treatment or whether his mom was just making that up too.) In 2007, Logan’s mom was convicted of his murder.
Ke’Shaun Bryant Vanderhorst, age 3, in 1995. At one point Mom claimed he’d been taken by child protective services. Later she said she’d sold him for $500 to buy crack. She pleaded guilty to child endangerment, and there the matter rests.
Brittany Renee Williams, age 7, in 2000. Brittany, who had AIDS, lived with a foster mother who specialized in HIV-positive children. The foster mom claimed she allowed two of her friends to take Brittany on an extended vacation, and that was the last she saw of her. The cops located Mom’s friends and, of course, they denied that they’d ever taken Brittany with them anywhere. Foster Mom was eventually convicted of fraud (for accepting government assistance for Brittany long after Brittany was no longer living with her) and sentenced to eight years in prison. Authorities don’t believe Brittany can possibly be alive anymore, because she would have no way of getting access to the special AIDS medication she needs.
Rilya Shenise Wilson, age 4, in 2001. Her foster mother claims she gave Rilya to a “social worker” from Florida’s Department of Children and Families who showed up at the door and said she was moving the child to another foster home. The DCF hadn’t sent any social worker to remove Rilya, though. She wasn’t reported missing until April 2002, more than a year after she reportedly disappeared. The case blew up in everyone’s faces and exposed major flaws in the system that’s supposed to look after and protect children. Rilya’s foster mom was eventually charged with murder and is awaiting trial, but the case against her is weak; she may get off.