TERRE HAUTE — The biological mother of three Indiana children who police say were kept in locked, darkened rooms where they were restrained to beds with duct tape and rope and deprived of food and water by their adoptive parents says she was angered to learn about the conditions.
"I'm pretty outraged about it, because it involves my children," Christina Joiner told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star.
Joiner, who now lives in Monroe County, called the newspaper last week after reading about the arrests of Larry Russell, 39, and Nikki Russell, 35, of Terre Haute. She said she gave her daughter and two sons up for adoption hoping they would have a better life.
"I thought I was doing the right thing, and come to find out it wasn't," she said.
The Russells are each charged with six counts of neglect of a dependent and five counts of criminal confinement. Nikki Russell also is charged with two counts of battery by body waste and battery resulting in bodily injury. Not guilty pleas were entered for them when they appeared in court Wednesday, and Judge Michael Lewis ordered public defenders appointed for them. Each is being held on $100,000 cash bond.
Joiner said the Indiana Department of Child Services began investigating her as a parent in 2006 or 2007 because of repeated reports of filth in her homer. She said the children always had food and clothes, but she was urged by the agency to sign papers to terminate her parental rights.
The Russells finalized the adoption of the three children in April. They also have another adopted son and a child of their own.
Joiner wants to know why DCS wasn't aware of the conditions her children were living under with their adoptive parents.
Agency spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said in an email to the newspaper that federal and state laws prohibit the department from speaking about a case because of confidentiality. She did offer information on adoption cases in general.
"Once the court has granted adoption of a child to an individual or couple, the children are no longer wards of the state, and DCS no longer has legal authority to be involved with the family. The only time in which DCS could intervene is if it received a report of abuse or neglect — as in this case," McFarland wrote.
The department got involved when a 17-year-old boy, who is not one of Joiner's children, told police he escaped from the home the day after Thanksgiving.
The boy also police that Nikki Russell would hold his and his adopted brother's heads under running water in the bathtub while their hands were tied behind their backs with a belt to try to get them "to talk." He said Larry Russell once made one of the boys put the pain relief products Icy Hot on his genitals and in his rectum.
Larry Russell is due in court with a lawyer on Monday. Nikki Rusell is scheduled to appear with her attorney on Friday.