' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adopted teens murdered by step-father

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adopted teens murdered by step-father

Some years after I gave up my daughter Rebecca, a close friend, unmarried, confided she was pregnant and was considering adoption for her child. "At least I know he will be well taken care of," she said. By then I had represented adoptees accused of crimes in juvenile court and I knew that adoption did not always deliver the ideal life. I shot back "You won't even know if he gets enough for dinner. The only way to be sure he's well-taken care of is to raise him yourself." My friend kept her son and he is the joy of her life.

Of course there are extraordinary circumstances which make raising your own child impossible but if it's possible, my advice still holds: raise your child yourself. Adoption is a lottery, as John Sales portrayed in his excellent 2003 film, Casa de los Babys.

Tory and Quinn Carlson and their sister lost that lottery. The boys, 18 and 16 respectively, were shot dead in a chicken coop, along with their mother, Lana, and a neighbor who happened to be there, by their step-father, David Wayne Campbell. They had been adopted from Russia by Lana and her first husband who
had died of cancer. After shooting his family and the neighbor, Campbell called police. He ended a three-and-a-half-hour standoff by shooting himself in the head. The boys' sister, adopted from China, escaped the carnage. She is now with child welfare officials.

Intercountry adoption ain't so pretty
Carlson and Campbell, married five years, lived in rural Mason County, Washington. Their marriage was troubled; Campbell was prone to out-bursts of rage. They operated a small business which was failing. Campbell had had numerous arrests between 1996 and 2000; he had been convicted of theft and forgery. It was not known how a convicted felon such as him had obtained the guns he used in the shootings.

The fact that the children were adopted somehow makes this tragic story worse. Adoption promises a better life, not only better than the children would have had if they had stayed with their natural family, but a life better than most children will have. Adoptive parents are screened by skilled social workers; they often pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of raising the children of others. Many think of them as warm and generous, financially comfortable with wholesome values, good educations, current on the latest child-rearing theories, and devoted parents.

Maybe Lana Carlson and her first husband fit this profile. That first "forever family" Ozzie and Harriet existence--if that is what it was--did not last long: the adoptive father died and Carlson married a homicidal man. The media reports don't tell if there were warning signs, whether she had any way of knowing she was putting herself and her children at risk.
A film for us 
We also don't know anything about the natural parents of the children. Were Tory's and Quinn's mothers hopeless alcoholics, as the mothers of Russians adoptees are often said to be? Were the boys languishing in dangerous orphanages, as readers of this blog repeatedly tell us about whenever we run a story critical of intercountry adoption? Were the Chinese girl and her mother victims of China's former one-child policy? Was she abandoned on the side of a road? Were the children's natural parents tricked by con-men or religious zealots, catching children to line their pockets or save their souls?

But most importantly, could the parents have kept their children with a little help, a few hundred, a few thousand dollars perhaps--a fraction of what the three adoptions likely cost the Carlsons.

No one will probably ever know about the background of the boys, or their sister. The general view in public perception that there is no difference between being adopted or being raised in your family of origin, and the media typically reflects that bias. The reporters, and their editors, most likely share the view of many Americans: once the children left their arms, the natural parents went on with their lives, and the children's lives began anew.

As a natural mother myself, I know that was most likely not the case. Do the natural parents know the tragedy that has befallen their children? Since it was an intercountry adoption, almost certainly not. The adoption agency should be able to contact them, or at least authorities in their hometowns. But whose responsibility would it be to see that this happens? No one's. Have the agencies done this? It could hurt their business if the story got out in the home countries of the children. That aside, perhaps the agencies believe the the natural parents are better off not-knowing. I think the natural parents are better off knowing what happened to their children, as horrific as it is. At least they will not spend their lives hoping for a letter, a phone call, a knock on the door. They will know that reason their children did not contact them and not be left to think theor children don't care. What do readers think?--jane
Lorraine here: A good example of how adoption in families is reported is the recent case in New York of Dean Skelos, once the leader of the New York Senate. He and his son are awaiting sentencing for selling influence in the Senate for the re-enrichment of his son--his adopted son, Adam. That he is adopted was almost never mentioned in any stories about their relationship, as the one below, which is only about their close relationship, shows. The only time I saw the fact of his adoption included in a story was in a New York Times piece as the trail began in the fall. Skelos's legal team wanted to bring it in, obviously as a ploy to gain sympathy; the judge would not allow it. Skelos was part of the stumbling block for any bill at all that in effect repealed the sealed records statute of 1936. Go figure.

Though numerous stories were written after that, Adam's adoption was never mentioned. But all you had to do was to look at a photo to realize they were almost certainly not related by blood.

Ex-NY Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos spoiled son Adam on road to corruption

Man who killed 4 in Mason County had a long criminal history
Mother, son slain in Belfair had planned a food truck business
Coroner identifies mom, 2 sons as victims in deadly Mason Co. shooting

International Adoption: The Abuse Continues
Adoptive Parents: Not a Breed Apart?
'Re-Homing': Dumping unwanted adopted kids

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption
by Kathryn Joyce
"....an important voice for adoption reform and should be read by those who shape adoption policy and those considering adopting from abroad or donating to an international adoption agency or foreign orphanage. It's laden with facts and figures, but is never dull. FMF highly recommends The Child Catchers.--Jane at FMF

Casa de los Babys
...gives a very gritty feeling of being in Mexico waiting to adopt a baby. The women who play the main characters do great acting. They play a cross section of very genuine personality types. No plot, just the drama of daily life in an emotionally volatile situation. Brings up all sides of the issue of adopting babies in foreign countries, including a very moving portrayal of the life of homeless street children."--W. Lang on Amazon


  1. So sad, heartbreaking. No matter if they want to know or not, I feel the boys' parents (or closest living relative(s)) have every right to be informed, as do the parents or closest living relative(s) of the sister from China.

  2. Lorraine, a Russian adoptee living in Ohio was literally beaten so badly by her a/father that she will be never walk. This story happened 10-15 years ago. I will never forget it, but I can't find it. Whatever happened to her ?

    1. Anon, You might try to contact Marley Greiner through the Bastard Nation website. Marley was keeping track of reports of Russian adoptees who were killed or severely abused by their adopters. Over 20 Russian adoptees have been killed in the US including a teenage girl in Washington who died of starvation and exposure after the adoptive parents forced her to live outside in a shack. The Russian government cut off intercountry adoptions in part because of the abuse.

    2. Anon, Marley is also on Facebook.

  3. Better to go through the grief of learning your child died than the daily torture of worrying about him and hoping and wishing for the day you can see him again. A day that would never come.

  4. They have every right to know, because THEY are the children's parents. Candace Newmaker's family found out what happened to her and I think social services has a lot to do with keeping abuse from AP"s hush hush because many kids taken from their families end up disabled or dead. Removing children from their homes is legitimate BIG business now, because as we all know psychopaths rule adoption.

  5. As a mother whose daughter was raised, after the first 5 years, less than 300 miles from me, I can tell you - the lottery is right! My daughter was, according to her story, abused, neglected and unloved from the beginning. She was, in her words, owned and made to fit the "perfect" family mold. Her adoptive mother tells me different. They left the country with my daughter before the adoption was final, did not return for 5 years...the point where her adoptive mother said she had started being "bad." They had wanted to return her, according to the adoptive mother, but DES (CPS) said I was no where to be found..... although they had kept tabs on me for the entire time and knew, at that time, that I was living an hour away by car from my daughter.

    Did anyone call me when the supposed adoption was failing? No...and it is unlikely that anyone would have.

    CPS, adoption agencies and attorneys should be liable for failure to notify the natural parents in time of crisis. In this day and age, it is unlikely that a person can't be found unless they are actually dead. This I know to be true, since it took a detective to find out what happened to my daughter's father - who died in 1985.

  6. Adoption definitely wasn't the best arrangement or in the best interests for these children of international adoption. May the boys Rest in Peace.

    Adoption is a broken, ugly system and is far from the romanticized fairy tale scenario that is publicly marketed to prospective adopters and vulnerable pregnant women. Unfortunately, these tragedies happen within all types of families, but families with adoption seem to have additional issues affecting all involved.

    Last week an adopted 17-year-old shot and killed his adoptive parents in their sleep in Odessa, Texas. The local paper made a point to mention that the teenage male shooter had been adopted. Not sure what point was trying to be made by the paper mentioning that...

  7. Ugh! Flashback when I was a mom suffering from post-partum depression and answered the billboard that advertised "Pregnant- need help?"

    I was given a slick adoption lawyer and slicker prospective adoption couple who did everything in their power to convince me I would lose my other children and life as I knew if if I didn't give my daughter up for adoption.

    Little did I know that the prospective adoptive mom was cheating on her husband and would file for divorce (with alimony and child support) soon after the adoption was finalized.

    Little did I know that the open adoption would slam shut when my daughter was a toddler. And later when she sought us out on her own we would be branded as evil for even talking to her.

    So all these years later my children have graduated college and are very close to us as a family. My relinquished daughter is a chronic runaway who has been told that contact with us in ungrateful.

    Tell me again how adoption is for the children?

  8. I lived in constant fear, thinking that something was wrong with my daughter and she needed me. She did. She had epilepsy, and attendant issues that manifested as poor social skills, for one. At the same time her doctor was trying to contact me, I was writing to the agency. The response from them? That she was fine and happy with her family.

    They ignored the letter from her doctor; but on the other hand, they were following the letter of the law. Welcome to adoption in America.

    With a searcher, I found her. He had already found her from the clues I wrote in Birthmark about her birth place and date. All I had to do was hand over $1,200 in 1981 in cash. In today's dollars, $3,700.

    A small price.

  9. Horrible story, and it always hits mothers who have given up a child extra hard when the victims of domestic violence, abuse and murder are adopted children. How could any mom who had given up a child and does not know where her child is not think, "could that be my baby?" The bitter irony of "the better life" supposed to be there for adopted children cannot be missed.

    Given the facts of this case, mothers keeping their child could not really guarantee that there would not be a similar outcome. Any woman could marry a guy who turned violent, and turned against her and her children, biological or adopted. It sadly happens every day, and often the perpetrator is a stepfather, lover, or aquaintance of the mother. Neither keeping the child nor surrendering the child really guarantees anything except that they will be raised in different circumstances, better or worse in the long run either way, nobody can say. Certainly any mother able and willing to raise her child safely should raise that child,and we need to get rid of the myth that adoption always means a better or safer life. Sadly there are no guarantees to any parent that their kids will always be safe no matter what they do.

    What could prevent some tragedies and the placing of children with unfit and dangerous adoptive parents is much more stringent requirements to adopt, across the board, and continued checks on children once they are in a home, especially older or hard to place children, and absolutely stop giving hard to place kids to ANYONE who will take them, and stop selling any child to the highest bidder, no questions asked as is often the case with private and some international adoption. My personal choice would be to not allow anyone with extreme religious or political views to adopt. So many of the worst abuse cases involve religious fanatics who think they were told by God to adopt more kids than they could handle, or who believe in cruelty as "discipline". Adopting children is not a right, and only those proven fit should even be considered to raise someone else's child.

    1. Step father and fathers do murder their children, adopted or not. But in most cases, chances for a better outcome for your child are improved if you raise your child yourself. You can be sure he is loved, fed, and so on. You can try to protect him from abuse. You have no assurances of any of this if you give your child to someone else.

      Maryanne writes: "What could prevent some tragedies and the placing of children with unfit and dangerous adoptive parents is much more stringent requirements to adopt, across the board, and continued checks on children once they are in a home, especially older or hard to place children, and absolutely stop giving hard to place kids to ANYONE who will take them, and stop selling any child to the highest bidder, no questions asked as is often the case with private and some international adoption. My personal choice would be to not allow anyone with extreme religious or political views to adopt."

      I don't see anyone stepping up to make this happen. Adoption agencies claim they don't have the funds to monitor families forever. Plus, it would hurt their business if they had to report families to the authorities for abusing a child the agency placed in the home. If they screened PAPS more stringently, they would not be able to place as many kids and they would lose money.

      State authorities aren't able to adequately screen foster parents let alone stringently, and they are not able to adequately check children they place in foster homes.

      Of note: LaVoy Fincum, a man with extreme political and religious views was the occupier of the Malheur National Wildlife Range in Oregon who was killed by the State Police. He had four foster children on his Arizona ranch at the time. Over the years, more than 50 boys had been placed at his ranch by Catholic Charities under a contract with the State of Arizona, mostly boys with mental health or drug problems. http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/militant-says-foster-children-were-pulled-from-his-home-lavoy-finicum-burns-oregon/

      If the government can't keep kids away from nut cases, I don't expect the private sector to do it.

      Again, I caution expectant mothers, the most truth worthy person you can place your child with is yourself.

  10. When my mother handed me off to others to raise, she had no way of knowing that my adoptive mother would die of breast cancer less than a decade later. She also had no way of knowing that my adoptive father would decide that he didn't want to ..... oh, excuse me, he "wasn't able to" ..... parent me on his own, and therefore tore apart my "forever family" by dissolving my adoption and dumping me on relatives.

    Another thing my mother didn't know was how much my second adoptive mother, an angry, borderline alcoholic, hated me. How much she truly, deeply, despised me, and how she abused me -- emotionally and physically -- leaving me feeling unworthy, unwanted and unloved.

    There is no guarantee of a "better life," just a different one. Adoption is a crapshoot at best.

  11. Thought somebody might be interested in this article. Illinois launched a Birth Certificate Accuracy Initiative last year, and the state considers it to be very successful. Yet, in Illinois adoptive parents can still legally falsify birth location on their child's amended birth certificate.


  12. I think I would have killed myself if I had found out my baby had been killed by his adoptive parents. Sorry, I disagree strongly on this one. I remember when there was a debate going on after my son was taken about whether to allow open records. We still don't have open records almost 40 years later in my state, but the same people who were against open records wanted to inform the mother if her child had died. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as to their motives for this, but I remember feeling as if someone had punched me in the gut and thinking"How cruel" Sometimes a dreamworld is a very nice place to live preferable to living in reality-to hide away from the pain



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