Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Twisted Case of Abuse, Life and Death

There is an astonishing legal case unfolding in Massachusetts, involving a nearly dead 11-year-old girl, and whether or not she should be removed from life-support, and the pleas of the suspect in the beating of the child, her step-father, who wants legal custody of her. His lawyer says if the girl dies, his clent then faces a murder charge.

The grim and grisly details of what happened to young Haileigh Poutre at the hands of her step-father, Jason Strickland and her adoptive mother, Holli, who was her aunt, indicate the child was beaten with a baseball bat and thrown down the stairs more than once. According to the news report, her aunt was killed shortly after Strickland and Holli were released on bail, but that incident is also still being investigated:

Within two weeks of the couple pleading innocent to the beating, Holli Strickland was dead, fatally shot in her grandmother’s West Springfield apartment. The body of her 71-year-old grandmother, Constance Young, was beside her. The possible double suicide or murder-suicide is still under investigation.

In a legal brief filed before Tuesday’s hearing, Strickland, 31, asks to be declared Haleigh’s de facto parent. His lawyer, John Egan, insists his client is not motivated by the chance he could be charged with murder if the girl dies."

Holli, who had a degree in child care, and Strickland, both attacked the child, according to one witness:

"But Alicia Weiss, a baby sitter for Haleigh, testified at a hearing in Strickland’s criminal case that she saw Holli Strickland kick the girl down the stairs repeatedly and hit her with a baseball bat. She said she also saw Jason Strickland hit the girl twice with an open hand and once with a plastic stick.

Although he has not been accused of dealing any particular blows to the child, court documents accuse Strickland of watching as his wife abused Haleigh."

The state's Supreme Court heard the case Tuesday, though Justices indicated Strickland had no real standing in a custody claim.

The state's Department of Social Services now has legal custody of the comatose child, and doctors are saying she will never come out of her vegetative state.

Within the maze of abuse and abandonment and legal rights, the child remains in the center spotlight. What will the courts do? Will more state officials argue for the girl's life-support to be suspended? And is there any punishment which might suit this string of brutal crimes?


  1. Anonymous3:24 PM

    Jesus christ, thats sickening. As much as I try to supress it, things like this deserve old testament kind of justice...

  2. I heard this story on NPR this morning, it is a horrible one. Seems each placement they put her in was more and more horrible. I see the state having some responsiblity and now they have one even greater, giving her some peace finally and some justice. They said her brain stem is completely gone, no hope of her ever being conscious again.

  3. It is a real tragedy. Yes, from what i have read, the state has much responsibility and the courts are likely to reject the step-father's baseless claims.

    I cannot imagine the horrors this young girl has endured and the doctors say, as Julie noted, she can never recover.

  4. I saw this story on CBS News last night. I do believe the biological mother is trying to get custody so she pull the plug.
    Just how sad is this story?

  5. The best case scenario here is that she will be allowed to donate some organs, & transition into the Light.
    The fact that she was self-mutilating just reinforces the fact of the stress levels that poor child was under.
    Her bio mom will forever live w/ guilt.. & the stepdad will no doubt get his while in prison..