Arkansas Republican who gave adopted daughters away to rapist thought they were possessed by demons: report
An Arkansas state legislator and his wife believed their two adopted daughters were possessed by demons and forced them to undergo exorcisms before giving them away to a former staffer, who later raped the older girl, according to a report.
Republican Justin Harris and his wife Marshagave away the girls, ages 3 and 6, to a friend, six months after the adoption was finalized.
That friend, Eric Francis, is now serving a 40-year sentence for sexually assaulting the 6-year-old child. He was arrested six months after the girls were placed in his and his wife's care.
The Harrises, who have three other children, said they could not handle the girls, claiming they were violent and had severe emotional problems,the Arkansas Timesreported Thursday.
But sources close to the family told thepaperthat the Harrises thought the girls' problems were of another world — the underworld.
The couple was convinced the girls, who they brought home in October 2012, were possessed and could communicate telepathically, sources told the paper.
That fear made them keep the girls in separate rooms under lock and key — with video surveillance and alarm systems —former babysitter Chelsey Goldsborough said. They were not allowed to interact with each other and Goldsborough entered the older girl's room only to give her food and water, she said.
The Harrises took away the older girl's toys "because a demon told her not to share," according to Goldsborough.
"The first night I was over there, I just broke down and cried with this little girl because I just felt so bad for her," Goldsborough said.
Marsha Harris showed people pictures and videos she claimed showed evidence of the older girl interacting with a demon, the former babysitter claimed.
The couple's "obsession" with demons drove them to hold at least one exorcism, sources said. They hired experts from Alabama to force the demons out, Goldsborough said.
The Harrises' lawyer, Jennifer Wells, denied these claims in a statement.
"Exorcisms and telepathy are not part of the Harrises' religious practice," she said. "They followed the techniques in a book" on therapeutic parenting techniques.
The Harrises initially began the process of adopting three girls; the two they gave away to Francis and their older sister.
The girls' biological mother, Sarah Young, facilitated the adoption because she said she most likely would not gain back custody after losing it in 2011.
Their biological father sexually assaulted the third girl. Another man in the home, which had been turned into a meth lab, was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sexually assaulting the two older girls.
The younger girls were placed in a foster home with Cheryl Hart in March 2011, Hart told theTimes. The oldest girl was placed in a home with a therapeutic foster parent, who is trained to deal with troubled children.
"If they were violent (in the Harris home), they were taught violence. We had a dog, a little Bichon, that they were around all the time and there was never once any issue with her abusing an animal. ... They thrived in our home," Hart said.
Meanwhile, Young wanted to "make sure my girls were safe and in a good home" that would be more permanent, she said. Through the local church where she received free meals, Young heard that the Harrises were looking to adopt and reached out to them, Justin Harris toldKARK-TV.
"Our idea was going to be to have a private adoption," Harris said. "(The biological) mom wanted to have control of what happened to the children ... and Marsha and I said we didn't want to go through DHS because of some issues we'd had with them in the past."
The girls' foster parents objected to the adoption because they didn't think the Harrises would be able to handle the girls — they suffer from reactive attachment disorder, a behavioral condition associated with trauma and child abuse.
DHS officials initially objected to the adoption too, claiming the girls needed additional therapy, Hart said. They changed their minds in a court hearing, probably because of Justin Harris' influence, she said.
The three girls were placed in the Harrises' home in October 2012 and the two younger ones were legally adopted in March 2013.
The family decided not to go through with adopting the third girl who "sometimes spent about eight hours every day screaming and in a rage," Justin Harris said. She posed a danger to the family and was hospitalized shortly after being taken into their home, he said.