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Illegal Child Sale
February 28, 2009 permalink
Louisiana foster mother Donna Greenwell sold two of her wards to Paul J and Brandy Lynn Romero. The buyers could not afford the asking price of a thousand dollars per child, so they gave up their pet cockatoo instead. This is not from the Onion and is not a spoof.
The state of Louisiana seized the children. Maybe the state does not approve of undercutting their prices.
All children are safe after bizarre swap for cockatoo
By William Johnson • Gannett News Service • February 26, 2009
Evangeline Parish — A 5-year-old boy, his 4-year-old sister and their 17-month-old half-brother are now safe following a bizarre case in which the two older children were allegedly exchanged for a cockatoo.
Donna Greenwell, 53, of Pitkin, a small town in Vernon Parish south of Fort Polk, has been charged with aggravated kidnapping after being accused of selling the older children to an Evangeline Parish couple.
Greenwell, a long-haul trucker who surrendered to authorities Sunday, is being held in the Evangeline Parish Jail on a $100,000 bond.
The couple, Paul J. Romero, 46, and Brandy Lynn Romero, 27, also are facing kidnapping charges but have been released on a $5,000 bond each.
According to Detective Keith Dupre with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office, the couple had been trying for years to have their own child.
“The Romeros had good intentions from what we see,” Dupre said today. “They really wanted to take care of the kids. The kids were well-dressed and seemed to be treated good by the Romero family.”
Dupre said the transaction for the two children was negotiated by telephone last week after Greenwell spotted a flier posted at a livestock barn offering the Romeros’ pet cockatoo for sale for $1,500.
Although Paul Romero had three children from a previous marriage, Dupre said he and Brandy Romero had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child of their own. When they told that to Greenwell, she allegedly offered to hand over the boy and girl for about $2,000.
When the Romeros said they couldn’t meet the price, Dupre said, “Ms. Greenwell agreed to make an even trade — the bird for the kids.”
Greenwell showed up with the children at the Romeros’ home the next day and said she would also need $175 for an attorney to complete adoption paperwork, Dupre said.
But it turns out she had no authority to put the children up for adoption. She was not their mother.
Everything began to unravel over the weekend when authorities received a telephone tip that the Romeros and the children would be at a Eunice fast food restaurant, where authorities approached them. The children are now in state custody.
The fate of the children’s infant half-brother remained in doubt for several days, but Dupre said the child has been located in Elizabeth, a town of about 500 in Allen Parish.
“He is in good shape. He has gained some weight. Social Services is in contact with the family. They are going through the proper channels,” Dupre said.
Authorities believe Greenwell began caring for the children about a year ago at their mother’s request.
Dupre said Greenwell “stated that the mother was having a hard time and asked her to baby sit. She said one month led to two months and two months led to a year.”
He said the children’s biological mother is believed to be in Texas but has told investigators through a relative that she plans to come to Evangeline Parish soon.
Dupre said the older children’s father, of Leesville, has been questioned and has expressed interest in getting custody of the children.
Who will eventually get the children will be up to the state, which will decide whether the parents can visit or gain custody of the children.
Authorities are also checking a claim made by the children to one police officer that they were sexually and physically abused, although not by Greenwell or the Romeros.
The Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court’s Office said today that attorneys had been appointed to represent Greenwell and Paul Romero.
A message was left this afternoon for Romero’s lawyer, Kelly Tate.
Greenwell’s court-appointed lawyer, Timmy Fontenot of Mamou, declined comment. Greenwell has an extensive police record including charges of kidnapping, assault and theft.
Police in Glenmora, near where Greenwell lives, are seeking information from anyone who might know if she had been involved in any similar cases.
“She’s had numerous children living with her at various times over the years,” said Glenmora Officer Jennifer Potter.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Source: Monroe News Star