Terrance Heath

Poisonous Parenting for the Holidays

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 29, 2007 12:46 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: child abuse, child care, LGBT families, marriage, parenting, parents

I guess it was the combination of Parker's fifth birthday and Thanksgiving that brought this series back to mind. After all, it happened that this year Thanksgiving fell on the fifth anniversary of the say we first saw our son and walked out of the hospital with him. (As well as he fifth anniversary of the day I changed my first poopy diaper, which four-day-old Parker presented to as soon as we arrived at the hotel that would serve as our home for our first two weeks as a family, perhaps as my initiation to parenthood.)

Of course, we didn't conceive him. We couldn't. Nor did either of us deliver him. But we've loved and cared for him for the five years since he was born, as well as protecting and guiding him through his world we didn't bring him into. According to the Maryland Court of Appeals, though, loving and raising him for the last five years, and being committed to doing so as he grows into adulthood, is nothing compared to being able to make a baby.

Or maybe it was stumbling across an update to a case I filed away as a potential part of this series when I first heard about it. When I first heard about the little girl called Baby Grace, police were releasing sketches and asking for help to identify the little girl whose remains were found in a box.

Authorities are hoping composite sketches will help them identify a child whose body, stuffed in a large plastic storage box, washed ashore this week on an uninhabited island in Texas.

The sketches, released Friday, show a girl with long blond hair, in a pink shirt and a matching skirt -- clothes she was reportedly wearing when she was found.

A forensic dentist has narrowed her age to between 2 and 3, the Galveston County Sheriff's office said.

...The Houston Chronicle reported that the medical examiner said the girl had been dead for at least two weeks when her body was found.

Not knowing how she got in the box I filed the story away, thinking that somewhere down the line it might be revealed how she got in that box, and who put here there.

Now we know who she is and how she got in that box. And we know the people who put her in that box are the ones who brought her into the world.

Before dying, 2-year-old Riley Ann Sawyers was beaten with belts, picked up by her hair, thrown across the room and held under water, according to an affidavit from the Galveston County Sheriff's Office.

The affidavit says the girl's mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor, described to police how her daughter died and was put in a plastic storage box that Trenor and her husband, Royce Zeigler, later dumped into a Galveston waterway.

Trenor told police Zeigler tried to commit suicide the weekend before Thanksgiving, and wrote a note that said, "My wife is innocent of the sins that I committed."

The body of the then-unidentified toddler was found on October 29. A fisherman found Riley's body stuffed inside a blue storage container that washed up on an uninhabited island in Galveston's West Bay.

A medical examiner said the child's skull was fractured, and a forensic dentist estimated her age at 2 to 3 years.

One of the, the one who carried and bore little Riley Ann, even told us how it was done.

In a statement to police included in the affidavit, Trenor, 19, said she and Zeigler, 24, killed Riley July 24.

The girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor, Trenor said in the document. She said they kept the body in a storage shed for one to two months before they put it in a plastic bin and dumped it into Galveston Bay.

Trenor said in the document that after her daughter was killed, Zeigler had her forge a document that the Ohio Department of Children's Services had taken Riley away because of allegations of sexual abuse.

Tuttoilmondo said Trenor had told relatives that someone claiming to be a social worker from Ohio, where Riley's father lives, took the girl in July.

...Trenor and Zeigler met a couple of years ago playing an online game, World of Warcraft, and she moved with her daughter from suburban Cleveland to Spring in June, Stickler said.

I don't write about this story as an attempt to suggest that all, most, or even a significant number of heterosexuals do this to children, but to point out how low the bar is set when equal protections are conditional upon a pairing of functional, or even potentially functional gonads. Making babies, something only possible with sperm from the testicles and an egg from the ovaries, is thus privileged above the capacity to love a child, and the ability and desire to protect and raise that child into healthy adulthood, something same-sex couples are equally capable of doing

In other words, privileging couples like Zeigler and Trenor above couples like the hubby and me, who've loved and raised our son into a happy, healthy little boy in the past five years. Because we did not and could not have conceived him. Conception, or the possibility thereof, trumps caring. It is unclear whether Trenor and Zeigler are married, believe it or not, but they could be as far as the Maryland Court of appeals is concerned, and would qualify before the hubby and I would, what they did to Riley Ann not withstanding.

Likewise the Detroit couple who barbecued their one-year-old boy on the backyard grill.

Nearly two years ago, the son of Reid and Miller, Deuntay Miller, died in his parents care. They told police that they tried to cremate 1-year-old Deuntay in a barbecue grill to avoid funeral costs.

But police said Reid has been collecting welfare and food stamps in the name of Deuntay and four other children.

State Department of Human Services spokeswoman Maureen Sorbet confirmed today that Nickella Reid received $822 a month in welfare.

The bizarre discovery turned up Friday as Detroit police investigated injuries to another 1-year-old boy, who turned out to be Deuntay’s brother, police said.

...Details of the 2-year-old death came to light Sunday as detectives continued to investigate the case.

The living 1-year-old suffered burns over one-third of his body. He is in fair condition, police said.

Police said Reid told investigators that Miller, her boyfriend, scalded their son in the kitchen in their home on Lillibridge in Detroit, causing the burns.

Reid then told police of her previous son's death and directed them to Miller's sister's home on Lappin, where Deuntay’s remains had been sealed in the ceiling. Officers from the Violent Crimes Task Force made the discovery Friday.

Ostensibly heterosexual, obviously able to reproduce together, the Maryland Court of Appeals would grant Reid and Miller the right to marry before the hubby and I, though our son is a million times more likely to eat barbecue (veggies, if I'm cooking) than to ever be barbecued.

Likewise the Maryland mom who poisoned her daughter as a means of gaining attention for herself.

The FBI began its investigation in the case after a doctor at Walter Reed Medical Center reported a 4-year-old girl living with her family at Fort Detrick having a dangerous blood loss and abnormal magnesium levels that would have had to be induced.

The FBI turned the case over to Frederick County, where a grand jury returned an indictment charging the child's 32-year-old mother with assault and child abuse for allegedly using a syringe to draw blood from her daughter and inject her with milk of magnesia and Epson salts.

The indictment also charged the mother with reckless endangerment for withholding prescription iron medication, creating a substantial risk of serious physical injury. The child suffered vomiting, extreme diarrhea, weight loss and other serious symptoms.

The prosecutor said the woman sacrificed her child for the attention of her husband, an officer in the Army who works at Walter Reed.

Heterosexual and fertile, despite being a poisoner, trumps two queers who've only ever given their kid children's ibuprofen and allergy medicine.

Likewise the mom who left her child in the car while she did her holiday shopping.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office said Laura Havens, 20, of Waynesboro, Pa., was charged with reckless endangerment and confining an unattended child.

She allegedly left the child in a car with the engine off at the Prime Outlets Hagerstown. The stores opened at midnight for Black Friday. Investigators said they believe Havens and her boyfriend, 22-year-old Casey Shields, also of Waynesboro, were among the first in line, waiting outside before doors opened.

Somebody heard the child crying and called authorities.

Authorities opened the car's locked doors at about 2:45 a.m. and gave the child to a relative of the mother's boyfriend. Police said the car wasn't heated and that outside temperatures were at 36 degrees. The child was evaluated at a hospital and wasn't injured

Fortunately for the child it's November and not, say, August. She may not have enough sense not to endanger her child by leaving it unattended in the car at midnight, but he had the functioning organs to produce a child, so Havens can marry her boyfriend tomorrow if she wants to, and doesn't might a jailhouse wedding. Not so the hubby and me, even though I sat in the car with Parker yesterday while the hubby ran into a CVS to get something.

Likewise the Maryland father who killed his family, and then killed himself.

A man shot and killed his ex-wife, their three children and himself in a small-town park as the woman prepared to hand over custody, police said Friday.

Their bodies were found Thursday evening in the tiny community of Unity.

Maryland-National Capital Park Police officers stopped in the deserted park after noticing two cars with their engines running, said Wayne Jerman, Montgomery County assistant police chief.

The bodies of Gail Louise Pumphrey, 43, of Woodbine, and the three children -- ages 6 to 12 -- were found in the cars, Jerman said.

David Peter Brockdorff, 40, of Frederick, was found nearby with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said they recovered a rifle near his body.

The children included two boys, ages 6 and 12, and a 10-year-old girl, police said. Authorities did not release their names, saying they first wanted to contact the children's schools.

Pumphrey had met with Brockdorff to hand over custody of the children, according to investigators. It wasn't immediately clear how long the children were to stay with their father.

He brought them into the world and he took them out, and were it not for his being dead (though if he were alive he could possibly reproduce, again) that would be good enough for him to marry again as far as the Maryland Court of Appeals is concerned.

With each case I'm still trying to wrap my brain around what these parents have over us, besides the what they can (or could) do with their genitals and corresponding organs.

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A damn good question. And yet another toddler here in Indiana dead at the hands of her biological parents this week.

Where's the "family values" crowd on this issue? They're not helping anyone prevent an unitended pregnancy, I can tell you that.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 29, 2007 1:33 PM

Terrance, congratulations on your family and fatherhood!!! I'm very happy for you, your partner, and Parker.

And what you say, although honestly I could not read through the details--their incomprehensible horror is all too familiar, but the older I get I just can't read the details--is right on. Let's hope and fight that the US Congress remedies the injustice regarding LGBT families and relationships before Parker is old enough to start his own.

The religious right is claiming the right to impose their values on everyone because of it, Jen. (Emphasis mine)

It's the abusers, stupid. It is often the "mom's-boyfriend-syndrome". Drugs or criminal activity are usually involved. Stereotypes, you say? You bet. And I place the blame squarely at the feet of the mothers.

I'm burning up with questions. Do you have any answers?

  • When do we get to talk about this honestly with sexism, race, poverty, etc., issues aside? We can't excuse this abuse anymore; it is flat-out selfishness and disease.
  • When do we get to say aloud that these folks are not fit to parent and do something about it?
  • When do we admit that our social service programs don't measure up to such narcissistic behavior and deep-seeded dysfunction? Aren't dead children enough for us to say that maybe we should try some vigilante interventions?
  • When can we impose our values on them?

Oh sure, slippery slope and all. Get over it...we have to drastically change our expectations of each other and lower the level of tolerance for abhorrent behavior.

Just a quick note to Terrance, though... I used this post in a conversation this afternoon about LGBT parenting. Thanks for providing back up documentation for my conversation, T!

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | November 30, 2007 10:36 AM

You "place the blame squarely at the feet of the mothers," Bill? The fathers, on the other hand were what? Taking a stroll on the beach, minding their own business and rescuing drowning puppies? In two of Terrance's parade of horror stories, both parents engaged in egregious behavior. In one of his stories, the father killed his family. And statistically, men are more likely to commit physical violence within families.

Note that I'm not condoning the actions of any of the mothers Terrance highlights. I'm just not prepared to give the fathers a pass or to argue that mothers are somehow intrinsically more responsible for their children's welfare than fathers are.

No, no, no. That is a quote from the Indiana Family Institute's blog post about the child who was killed here in Indianapolis this week, Ellen.

I thought it was outrageous too - that's why I highlighted it!

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | November 30, 2007 9:20 PM

In which case, my sincere apologies, Bil. I thought such sentiments seems odd coming out of your mouth...

Of course the Religious Right's answer is to impose morality on these people, blame women, and stop discussing a solution. They don't want to do what works, they just want to do what feels good and what'll support their political agenda in the end. Their tack is pretty much "Fuck kids, it's time for us to get ours."

Just disgusting.