Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kyron Horman, the List of Abducted Children and "Meeting the Criteria", part 1

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Every now and then a child is abducted somewhere in Oregon, and some weeks or months later, I receive a phone call from the child’s parent….

Their story is always the same: It has been weeks or months since they last knew the location of their child…the child disappeared with the other parent, who has fled the state…they’ve been to the police…they’ve been to the courts…they cannot find anyone in the system who is willing to help…the media doesn’t see a reason to get involved…and yet their child is still missing….

They contact me because they have been searching for help on line, and their search has led them to Aaron’s Law, Oregon’s landmark 2005 anti-kidnapping statute, named for my late son Aaron Cruz, and to my blogs, and they’ve read about the law, and they are calling me because they are desperate for advice….

Most don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, much less the resources to hire a private investigator to go out and find their abducted child, and they are mostly men, men who are trying to keep their lives steady while facing the reality, the horror, that they may never see their child again….

Some, like the most recent case, a father who called me a week ago from southern Oregon whose 3-year-old daughter went missing in July, have been told by local law enforcement that their missing child does not “meet the criteria” for any actual action by law enforcement, including adding their missing child to the State Police list of missing Oregon children, or notifying law enforcement in other jurisdictions of the missing child…and yet there is a child who is missing….

The phrase “does not meet the criteria” struck me when I took the call, because I was already planning to write about the subject, which came up during a press conference on the Kyron Horman abduction on July 23, when Washington County Sheriff Dan Staton responded to a series of question, including this one:

Q: How many other children are considered missing/endangered in Multnomah County at this time, aside from Kyron?

There are no other cases that meet this criteria,” he said.

The Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse maintains a list of abducted or otherwise missing children, which stands currently at 41 children.

More than half of these children have been missing for decades, and the only child that has “met the criteria” to make the list in the past three years is Kyron Horman….

The Oregon State Police website has a “spotlight” featuring five of these missing children, with Kyron’s name at the top of the list:

Samuel Boehlke has been missing for just over four years.

Jeremy Bright has been missing since 1986.

Karla Coronado has been missing for more than six years.

Carlos Cortez-Leon has been missing for eight years and two weeks.

At the bottom of the Spotlight feature is a link labeled “Click here to see all of Oregon’s missing children” that takes you to the page where 41 children are identified, where 40 of those children are the same children, year after year, where the Oregon State Police declares that these are all of the missing children, there are none other to be worried about….

But that list does not come close to identifying “all” of Oregon’s missing children, and it never has…it contains only the names of those children who have “met the criteria”….

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a list of missing Oregon children, but it is a different list....

At the same time, law enforcement is aware that Oregon has its proportional share of parentally and family-abducted children, a number that the US Department of Justice calculates at more than 200,000 children a year, nationwide; you can do the math….

The fact is that no one has a list of all of Oregon’s missing and abducted children, no one…. No law enforcement agency in the state is required to keep or maintain a list, and so no list of missing children exists….

Only the list that “meets the criteria”….

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 2: "Dad, I will never be well."

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

2. “Dad, I will never be well.”

My son spoke these words to me, a thick vein of despair in his voice, and I felt at once a heartburst of pain for him, for all those years that had been stolen from him, those last years of adolescence, those years in which he was forced to become a man without his dad to guide him, those years he had been held in remote Mormon enclaves in theocratic Utah, those years he had suffered through the emotional chaos of dealing with his mother’s life, her boyfriends plus three step dads, including the step dad who often slapped my children around their house in Payson, Utah, a heavy-set angry bastard named Steve Nielsen….

Aaron said these words to me in the early fall of 2003 just a few weeks after I had recovered him from the abduction, the only one of my four children that I was able to recover, and he was filling me in, telling me about how the damage came about, that look in his eyes telling me how severe his suffering had been during those years….

“Dad”, he said, “I didn’t want to tell you over the phone”, he said, “I wanted to see you in person and tell you myself,” he said; that’s the kind of young man Aaron was, an honorable son, his best years already gone forever….

“Dad, I will never be well!” he declared. I had just gotten him enrolled into the Oregon Health Plan. You had to be very sick to gain entry in 2003, and Aaron was more than overqualified for emergency acute care, with eight years’ worth of experience as the victim of a kidnapping…and in my heart, I knew he was telling me the straight-out truth, his opportunity to live a normal life, the life that I had dreamed of sharing with him, had been taken forever; now we were going to need a lot of medical help to find out what was left, what we could hope for….

Aaron was talking about more than the physical damage, he was talking about the emotional damage that he suffered during his years of 100% forced Mormon immersion….

In all the years that had passed since my four children disappeared into the exclusive control of his mother and her Mormon friends, I was able to gain access to only one medical report, that for Aaron, and nothing at all for my other three kidnapped children, despite an Order for Joint Custody….

The one report that I had seen was the documentation for Aaron’s admission “on an emergency basis” into a psychiatric ward in Provo, Utah, dated December 18, 1997, four months short of his 16th birthday. It was a miracle that I had been able to obtain this document….

The report described my son: “He is tall and thin…He has a slightly dark facial complexion…He looks sad…His mood is depressed and affect is sad. He speaks with a soft, slow voice. He reports a number of symptoms of depression including suicidal ideation and self injury...The patient’s insight judgment and impulse control is impaired as evidenced by wanting to resolve his problems with suicide and cutting himself…he has numerous large scars on both arms. He reports that when he cuts himself he feels relieved from internal pain. He cuts himself with a knife….”

I did not actually see those scars until Aaron was laying there comatose in Payson, Utah; he was sensitive about his arms and always wore long-sleeve shirts, plenty of time to count them during those five days and nights he lay motionless and unresponsive, to see the way they crisscrossed both upper arms, left and right, scars across scars…no needle marks on those arms, but lots of long scars, four inches long or more, wide scars, I hadn’t realized that a knife’s edge could create a scar so wide until I saw them on my son’s comatose arms….

I wondered how long he was cutting himself, at the tender age of fifteen, his despair so complete, how soon after his disappearance into Utah did the cutting begin, the report described multiple scars but provided no information as to when the self-mutilation began and how long it continued, and absolutely everyone concealed this information from me, most especially his mother and whoever she happened to be married to or otherwise involved with at the time or at any time thereafter….

Now, a few days after Aaron had been pronounced dead, his mother was telling this memorial gathering her story about the last time she had seen Aaron alive, about how he was sick and feverish and at risk of slipping into a coma, about how she had left him without meds but with a sack of groceries, her new husband Ben Foulk waiting impatiently across town, and she in a hurry to get back to California to her newly affluent life, co-owner of a string of high end retirement homes in El Dorado Hills, the new Mr. and Mrs. Ben and Gina Foulk, grumpy Ben, deep-pocketed Ben Foulk, waiting impatiently across town….

Gina had also left Aaron behind during his emergency psychiatric hospitalization, had gone on vacation out of state, leaving my 15-year old son to spend that  Christmas in the psychiatric ward in Provo Utah with the other patients, while she took a Christmas holiday in Oregon and Washington, including a couple of shopping runs at Lloyd Center….

The report quoted my son at the time he was admitted: “I am very depressed. I want to die. I want to commit suicide. I cut on myself.”

As soon as I learned he was in the hospital, I was able to reach Aaron by phone and we talked about our love for each other. Then he was abruptly released into the custody of step dad Steve Nielsen, the man who slapped my children around throughout their marriage, and I lost contact with my son, the hospital refusing to provide any additional information, this is Utah after all, and his mother Gina Nielsen refusing to provide any further information about my son, where he was or where Steve Nielsen was holding him…years would pass before I would learn anything more….

“Dad, I will never be well”, he said….

To be continued….

Part 3 is coming soon....

Monday, September 13, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz: A mother's love and a sack of groceries

By Sean Cruz

My son’s mother Gina Foulk told the story herself, in words that shock and sadden me even more today than they did at the time of Aaron’s death, more than five years ago….

Speaking before a group of perhaps fifty people in Payson, Utah, gathered together in memory of my son a week after he had been found comatose and unresponsive in her empty house a short distance away, she described the last time that she had seen Aaron alive, and her incomprehensible actions….

He was sick and feverish, she said, and she had left him alone….

He was out of his meds, and she had left him alone, in an empty house cluttered with Aaron’s empty prescription bottles strewn all over, with a sack of groceries and a crazy story….

She had left him alone, sick and feverish, without health care, without a call to a doctor, without refilling his prescriptions, the ones that were keeping him from suffering the very coma in which he died, without driving him to the hospital, without picking up the phone to alert anyone else to look after her son, she had left him alone, and was telling us all about it, without shedding a single tear….

She had told Aaron that Heavenly Father loved him, she said, lying there beside her sick and feverish son, she said, and here are some groceries for you, honey…and then she left him alone….

Aaron was sick and feverish she said, and what she did not say was that her new Mormon husband Ben Foulk was waiting across town, impatient to get back to California, where he owns a string of high-end medical-care-dispensing retirement homes (“Would you like some more cranberry juice with your pills, Mrs Treatednicely?”), and she was in a hurry to get out on the road, no time for doctors….

If she had driven him to the emergency room that night, the staff would have admitted him immediately, put him on IVs, and some medical people would have been working with real concern, realizing as they went along, working to save this young man’s life, that there is more to this story than meets the eye, this young man should have been hospitalized weeks ago, months ago….

The fact is that Aaron had been sick and feverish for a good long time; this part of his mother’s story was not news; In fact, just about everyone in that room listening to Gina Foulk’s story had known Aaron was sick, my son was visibly ill and everyone knew it, and yet no one had stepped up to get him seen by a doctor, not even Mr. and Mrs. Ben and Gina Foulk.

There’s another way to tell the story of the last days of Aaron Cruz: I had gone broke keeping Aaron alive that year, and when I ran out of money to pay for his anti-seizure and other meds, after I had spent my very last dollar, he convulsed and died, sick and alone, in that empty house, out of his meds…with his mother’s last sack of groceries….

Now I was standing here in this other house in Payson, Utah, listening to my son’s mother tell her story, having traveled here on money I had borrowed from friends, having had just gone broke trying to keep my son alive, having just spent five days and nights at his side at the hospital, to the end of life support, I am listening to a story about a sack of groceries and Heavenly Father….

My son’s mother told the gathering matter-of-factly that Aaron was sick and feverish, and she described how she had lain beside him and comforted him with stories about how much Heavenly Father loves him…and here’s a sack of groceries for you, honey, she said…but Ben Foulk was waiting impatiently across town, pills to dispense in Northern California, gold in them thar El Dorado Hills….

She said nothing at all about his meds, no mention at all in her meandering, incomprehensible story about the empty pill bottles that would have been scattered all over the house, Paxil in gigantic doses, the anti-seizure meds that were the key to keeping him out of a coma, no telling what else, since she grabbed and destroyed all of my son Aaron Cruz’s medical records, no telling at all, Ben and Gina Foulk’s lawyers have built an impenetrable wall behind which my son’s medical records are concealed….

Gina Foulk told this crazy matter-of-fact tearless story about how she left Aaron alone that night and turned the page; “I told him all about Heavenly Father”, she reassured this Mormon gathering, and no one said a word….

And her story would get crazier still when she told it a few days later on the day we laid my son Aaron Cruz into the earth in El Dorado Hills, California, where the Ben and Gina Foulks own a string of high-end retirement homes, providing high-end medical care to their well-heeled clients…and for you, Aaron, a sack of groceries and some Mormon stories to keep you company; now, here’s a nice piece of stone on a hillside, enjoy the birds….

To be continued….