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Family Destruction History

July 1, 2010 permalink

New York historian Richard K Stephens has used internet technology to research two-century old news archives. Turns out not much in today's family law is really new. He has a large collection of historical incidents on flickr, most easily followed through sets or tags.

Baby Farming

In past eras unwanted babies were farmed to a contractor who promised to care for them until age of majority. The fee tendered was far too small to cover the cost, and the usual outcome was infanticide.



Baby Farmers & Serial Killers: Grey Nuns, Montreal, 1876

Grey Nun Hospital, Montreal

Source: PK Papers

Baby Farmer & Murderer: Margaret Waters, England, 1870

Margaret Waters
[Image from: Illustrated Police News (London, England), Oct. 15, 1870, p. 1]

EXCERPT: A most just sentence has thus been executed, and the law has conspicuously fulfilled its appointed office of being a terror to evil-doers. A more terrible case, with respect both to the heinousness of the offence and to the unexpected vengeance which has overtaken it, has never occurred … The wretched woman and her sister were proved to have systematically published advertisements offering to “adopt” children for a remuneration which no one in his senses could believe to be adequate. In other words, they offered to the parents of illegitimate children a means of getting rid of charges at once burdensome and shameful to them … For the sake of a paltry and precarious gain Margaret Waters and her sister had the heart to make away with the helpless little creatures … nothing can palliate the hideous spectacle thus brought to light. A murder in hot blood, the deliberate gratification of revenge, or even a premeditated act of violence in the pursuit of some selfish object, fall short in some respects to the heinousness of this offence. The deepest instincts of a woman’s heart must have been deadened, and the most ordinary feelings of human nature extinguished, before such slow murder could be perpetrated upon piteous little innocents.

… Margaret Waters confesses to receiving children for purposes of profit, whom she, at least, knew she could not support. She confesses to receiving them for 5 l. or 10 l., and finding other people who would receive them for a fortnight’s expenses paid in advance, and would then let her hear no more of them. She confesses to taking them into the streets, placing them in the hands of children, and then running away and leaving them to their fate. She confessed to all this, and yet she professed to see in it nothing but “falsehood and deceit.” It was not murder, and nothing seems to have astonished her so much as the sudden vengeance which overtook her … while admitting the most damning facts, she extenuates their criminality. It is well that the stern sentence of the law has pronounced a terrible condemnation of these heartless excuses. “Baby Farming” as practiced by Margaret Waters was ruthless and systematic murder, and her doom will indelibly stamp this brand upon her infamous trade.

We wish it could be thought this unhappy woman was a solitary instance of such wilful blindness. It is to be feared she has expiated the sins of others who have actually perpetrated similar crimes, and it is certain there are many who are direct accomplices in her guilt. When she says that “the parents of illegitimate children who seek to get rid of them are more culpable than persons like herself, and that if there were no such parents there would be no ‘Baby Farmers,’” she does but exaggerate a just charge. When Margaret Waters abandoned children in the streets to the casual care of passers-by, she did but repeat what had been done by those who had first abandoned them to her in the dark of the night at obscure railway stations. It cannot be too strongly asserted that this execution reflects more or less the brand of murder upon all who contributed to the offence — upon the parents who only sought to get rid of their children, and upon those who allowed their journals to be the instruments of what they might have known to be an infamous traffic. It must be acknowledged that the justice of the law is but brought justice, and spares many who deserve punishment. That is inevitable. But one of the great uses of the law is to depict in true colours the real meaning of common offences. Selfish and licentious men and women will know for the future what is the natural issue of the offences against morality and society which they lightly commit. It is murder, and nothing less, that is the ultimate meaning of these social evils, and this is the contamination incurred by those who facilitate such offences.

[The Times (London, England), Oct. 12, 1870; quoted in article on website “]

Source: PK Papers

Pope Kidnaps Child

In 1858 Papal States police entered the home of Jewish couple Momolo and Marianna Mortara to take their six-year-old son Edgardo. The ensuing controversy contributed to the end of the pope's civil authority in Italy.



Government Child Kidnapping, Italy: Mortara, June 23, 1858

Edgardo Mortara

The 1858 Mortara kidnapping is the probably the most historically significant child kidnapping in history.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: At nightfall one June evening in 1858, a knock sounds at the door of a Jewish family in Bologna, Italy, then part of the Papal States. The dumbfounded couple, Momolo and Marianna Mortara, find a phalanx of police awaiting them. Their fright turns to panic when the police chief announces that he has been ordered to take away their six-year-old son, Edgardo. "You have been betrayed," he tells them. Someone, he says, has secretly baptized the boy, and now that the boy is Christian, he cannot remain with Jewish parents.

Despite their pleas to the Inquisitor of Bologna, who had heard the rumor of the Jewish boy's baptism and ordered the child seized, little Edgardo was removed by the police and sent to a Church institution in Rome dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. The parents, still believing that the taking of their son was a mistake--for they were sure Edgardo had never been baptized, put their faith in Pope Pius IX. The Pope, however, stood firm in the face of a storm of international protest demanding that he send Edgardo back to his parents. Indeed, he began to see Edgardo regularly and to regard Edgardo as his own son.

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara tells of the desperate attempts of the Mortaras to get their child back. The case drew in emperors and ambassadors, and Italian patriots seized on it as well, eager as they were to discredit the Papal States and to bring about the unification of Italy. Before the story ended, the Mortara family, the Papacy, and Italy would be changed forever.

[Text: publisher’s description of David I. Kertzer, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara: The Extraordinary story of how the Vatican’s imprisonment of a six-year-old Jewish boy in 1858 helped bring about the collapse of the Pope’s worldly power in Italy,” 1997, Knopf]

Source: PK Papers


To shrinks the natural desire of slaves to run away to freedom is a disorder. Cure? A good whipping.



The Medical Profession & Social Control, "Drapetomania," 1851


Drapetomania was a diagnostic term for a mental illness invented – or “discovered” -- by Samuel A. Cartwright and described in an 1851 paper delivered before the Medical Association of Louisiana that was widely reprinted.. The term “drapetomania” derives from the Greek δραπετης (drapetes, "a runaway [slave]") + μανια (mania, "madness, frenzy").

Cartwright described the disorder which, he asserted, was "unknown to our medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the absconding from service, is well known to our planters and overseers." He stated that the malady was a consequence of masters who "made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals."

"If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away."

In addition to identifying drapetomania, Cartwright prescribed a remedy. His feeling was that with "proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented." In the case of slaves "sulky and dissatisfied without cause" — a warning sign of imminent flight — Cartwright prescribed "whipping the devil out of them" as a "preventative measure."

[This text is based on Wikipedia, edited and revided]

[published as Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). "Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race". DeBow's Review XI.]

NOTE: Present-day drugging of children who are considered “uncooperative” or who attempt to run away from government-controlled child-rearing schemes largely follows from the same type of reasoning.

Source: PK Papers


The Shaker cult was founded in England in 1747 by Ann Lee and spread to the United States where it flourished for a century and a half, reaching 6000 members at its high point. They practiced celibacy, but had many children acquired through adoption of orphans and as wards of adult recruits. The incoming children were taught loyalty only the the Shakers as a whole, as all property and children were held in common. Marx and Engels became admirers of the Shakers, making them models for the development of communism. The outside parent was permanently alienated, leading to controversy over parental alienation two centuries before Richard A Gardner popularized the term. The last recorded case of Shaker child abduction took place in 1923. Increasing state control of adoption made it impossible for the cult to continue.



Parental Alienation & Cults: Rude, August 23, 1817

Jacob Rude

NOTE: This text describes one of the means by which the Shakers cult indoctrinated children – usually with the assent of at least one parent – into accepting that parent-child relations are wicked and that children must hate their parents, and instead accppt the cult leaders as “parents.”


JACOB RUDE, aged 19 years, being duly sworn, saith, that in the year 1815, he went with his mother to the society of Shakers; that he with 7 other young persons attended an evening school in the winter of 1815 and 1816, that one evening after they had gone through the exercises of the school, John Woods, who taught the school, rose up & taught them, saying that they must hate their parents: and if their parent spoke to them, they must not answer them; or if they did, they must answer them in a scornful sneering manner, frown and look surly at them, &c. And then put the question to them in general, whether this was not their faith; they all answered Yea, except this deponent, who was silent – which Woods perceived, and immediately put the question to each one separately, beginning at this deponent, who stood first in the class, & who though conscious of the error, through fear, answered in the affirmative. – And, that Woods repeatedly endeavored to instill such principles into their minds.

[Rude, Jacob, Affidavit of Aug. 23, 1817, from: Eunice Chapman, “An Account of the Conduct of the Shakers …,” 1818, p. 94 ( This is the first of two books published by Eunice Chapman recounting the Parental Kidnapping of her children by her husband who had joined the Shakers.)]

Source: PK Papers

Shaker song teaching children to abhor relatives of the flesh

Source: PK Papers

Parental Kidnapping, Parental Alienation & Cults: Chapman, February 1819

Shaker School

“MRS. CHAPMAN.” Written by Eunice Chapman, Albany, New York February 1819 (original spelling and punctuation retained)

After the chains of wedlock were rent asunder, and I possessed my agency; and could protect and defend myself, I resolved to go in pursuit of my children. That mysterious providence, which casts a veil over future events, kindly and in a remarkable manner suffered me a short time previous to be informed where they were carried, when first taken from Niskeuna. Consequently I to accomplish my purpose, had to proceed in all the subtlety and intrigue, which the Shakers possess. I first sent my books to Enfield, New-Hampshire, then dismissed my school. A friend settled my first stage fare, who gave me a fictitious name; and on the 9th of May, 1818, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I mounted the stage in a dismal thunder storm: When my most intimate friends in Albany, thought I had gone to visit my parent. As I traveled, it appeared as though there was no bottom to the mud. I crossed the green mountain from Bennington to Brattleborough, when it was said, the roads were never so bad. On one side, the snow was three feet deep; on the other was mud and water. – For safety we took an open wagon, yet it would toss and slide and sink into the mud. I was fearful of being dashed in pieces against the steep ledges of rock near us. I can give but a faint description of my fatigue and feelings at that dismal period, with no friend to whom I could communicate my troubles. At 2 o’clock on the morning of the 10th, I put up in Battleborough, 76 miles from Albany, where I had one hour to rest. On the 10th, there fell torrents of rain, and with a crouded stage, which came to a poise of upsetting, I fainted with fear. At evening, I arrived in Hanover, N. Hampshire, on the plains of Dartmouth College, where I was close questioned by the landlady, (an old maid,) and much prepared to answer. On the 13th, I took the stage and traveled to Enfield, in N. H, and stopped at the stage house, two miles beyond the Shaker village.

I complained of being unwell, and much fatigued, and unable to travel; thus made an excuse to stop a few days to rest. I soon found I had landed in one of the best of families, who suspecting my business privately sent for Mary Dyer, who hastened to my apartment, and introduced herself, by exclaiming “Mrs. Chapman, can this be you?” We met like two unfortunate sisters.

By using shaker’s subtlety and intrigue, I ascertained that my children were in that Shaker village; meanwhile, I kept in close concealment. Mrs. Dyer and myself, were plotting for her to go with a few women and get admittance to see her children, and then the privilege of seeing mine; and I ten be prepared, and take a post, and enter their village by surprise, and rescue the little captives! It was necessary for us to make some confidents; consequently, on the 24th, the Shakers got word that I was in town,* [* It was no doubt communicate to them by some of those false friends who value a dollar more than the happiness or lives of their fellow creatures.] the Shakers were then in as much consternation as though they had heard the din of war against them, and the sound of the drum beat to arms! The inhabitants took a deep interest in my behalf, and much more so, because I had traveled such a distance, after I had experienced so much trouble and fatigue in this state. I was fearful that the Shakers would remove my children that night. The inhabitants arose to my assistance, kept a guard around the Shaker village, and prepared a civil officer to seize them in case they attempted to carry them off. Meantime the Shakers were under fearful forebodings, and to appease the inhabitants, they, on the 25th, sent word that I might seem my children. A member accompanied me thither; we were seated in the Shaker’s office. After waiting some time George, my eldest child came into my sight. I stood and gazed at the little stranger, but could recognize no appearance of my son. He said, “Eunice how do ye do?” I wept over him, but he appeared inflexible, undutiful, and unnatural, though I imagined that I saw the stifled tear startle in his eye. I shewed him his little pocket book with a dollar in small specie, which he had collected before he was carried to the Shaker’s: and his last words were “I shall leave my money for my mother.” I told him how carefully I had kept that to remember him by, he laughed at mew. I handed him a tablet to date the year in which he was taken from my protection; he wrote, “when I was kindly taken from my mother!!” My daughters, and some of Mrs. Dyer’s children were secured in one of their Bastiles, which contained a large number of Shakers. A town officer and a member of the Legislature of that State, with their wives, were admitted with me and Mrs. Dyer to see them. Susan (my next eldest, being now 12 years of age) came into the room: I gazed at her in silent amaze. She appeared like a shadow, with a countenance pale and depicted and features emaciated, while pining away under her confinement. She gently approached me and said “Eunice, how do ye do?” I dropped my face upon her pale sallow cheek, and involuntarily exclaimed; Oh! Can this be my Susan, my dear Susan!!” I could discover none of that sprightly activity, and engaging sensibility, which once made her the pride of her mother. – Even her dialect had changed! I tore off her ghostly cap, hoping to recognize the features of my Susan: She was so much grieved that I hastened to put it on again; I saw the tear of filial affection started her eye. My Julia came next, which excited painful, though pleasing sensations, the reflection of which now stops me to weep! I gazed a moment upon my Julia in silence; she also said “Eunice how ye do!” I fell upon her face, and while bathing her with my tears, in my interval of sighs and groans, said, Oh! My dear Julia, my long lost babe! Have I once more clasped thee in these wishful arms! But she had become a stranger to those endearing caresses, which were once the joy of my heart. I seated her in my lap, but she fled from me and said, “It is against order to sit in lap!” I handed her a fine dressed doll, she said, “It is handsome, but I do not want it here,” though she eagerly gazed at it. Without my asking them any questions, they like two parrots, prattled over what shakers had previously told them to say to me, (how much better they were than with me.) In the heights of my groans and tears, Mr. Chapman said, “Eunice, don’t make such a racket, you disturb the brethren and sisters.” When such a scene, called forth, and put to the test, every feeling of a parent, and even those gentlemen who accompanied me wept. At the same time, there stood a Shaker elder, (like an emblem of Satan) behind Mrs. Dyer’s two children, pushing them forward, to abuse their mother, until they tore her youngest child from her arms, and with it fled from her sight. The ghastly visage of Mr. Chapman, indicated that his heart was the seat of remorse. I exclaimed, “James Chapman can you remain insensible through all this!” As I was returning to my lodgings, James Chapman said that I must not trouble them by coming the next day to see my children, for the brethren and sisters had been in a perfect hell all day and wanted some rest.

The Shakers, under their shroud of sanctity said, that they had no control over the children, that they were not bound – that they would be glad to seem me take them away, and if I would come in a peaceable manner and ask for them, I could have them.

Accordingly on the 27th, I took proper evidence, and went in a peaceable manner, and asked to see my children, but they would not let us come even within their door yards. A large number of the inhabitants who were prepared to assist me, then came and demanded sight of the children, and an interview with Mr. Chapman, and said they were unwilling to protect a people, who would harbor a villain who had fled from the justice of the laws of his own state, &c. &c. After several hours solicitations and threats J. C. appeared. Proposals were made for him to give me all or a part of the children. Being counseled by the Shakers J. C. attempted to impeach my character, and that of my deponents in my book and the respectability of the families to which I belonged, and said he would sooner tie his children to a log and set them adrift in the river, than to give them to a crazy woman who was wandering from town to town, among strangers and unprotected &c. &c. The inhabitants told him that they were not ashamed to accompany me thither, and they believed my statements and that my deponents in my book were correct, and the Legislature of the state of New York would not have been imposed upon by a woman, and in case they had not good cause to pass that law it would not have been passed. I, with tears in my eyes replied, ‘Mr. Chapman when I was married to you, you was respectable; your relations are still so. I am now an unprotected wanderer, and expect to wander until I obtain my children, though I ought and might have been under the protection of a kind husband. Though may have some claim to the son, can you withhold my daughters, my dearest self from me? James remained inflexible when the spectators could no longer endure the scene. The sheriff seized him with a criminal writ, and thrust him under keepers. It was then strongly impressed upon my mind that some of my children were hid in a barn which stood upon the mountain, half a mile from any house. Merely to gratify me my friends went in search, not thinking it possible. There they found my son in a rough Shaker dress buried in the hay, and without eating his supper. It was then 12 o’clock at night. They brought him to me, he trembled as though he had been taken captive by the savages. The Shaker Elders followed us with their lawyer, and demanded sight of Mr. Chapman and a copy of the writ, but could obtain neither. As I took my son into a carriage to carry him away, he sprang to leap out and run back to the Shakers. I seized him in my arms, he came near to dragging me out head first upon the ground, but I did not quit my hold. I had to hold him in the carriage as we traveled. I had to lay my commands upon him, told him he must go with me and stay until he was 14, he could choose for himself he yielded. I traveled several miles, hid him, returned back for my daughters; but the situation of things were such it was expedient for me to hasten out of the state with the one I had. For 40 hours I was in constant agitation and fatigue, did not close my eyes to sleep nor rest my weary limbs nor eat my regular meals.

To prevent the Shakers pursuing after me, and let them know what they might expect in case they should I hired a man to go to the Shaker village and discharge a rifle for several nights successively. I hired another man to protect us, and a private carriage, and traveled through private roads much out of my way, which cost me several dollars a day. On the third of June we safely arrived in Albany to the joyful surprise of all my friends, where we received congratulations from every class; though I first had to hide my son until I could get him a decent suit of clothes. I employed all my leisure hours in shewing my son the different curiosities in the city, indulged him in innocent luxuries and amusements. With regard to education, his time while among the Shakers was lost. I strove by every means I was capable of, to awaken his sensibility and regain his affections. But for several weeks he behaved as though I was a stranger, and did not call me mother. I was fearful he would leave me and go to the Shakers in Niskeuna. I trembled whenever he went out of my sight, and the sight of a Shaker was a demon before me. After he became more natural, he acknowledged that he had at first intended of leaving me and going back to the Shakers.’ He stated that ‘the Shakers had imprinted a prejudice on his and his sister’s mind, against me, by telling them I had become a common and very base woman, so that people would not admit me into their house, and that people in the world were generally no better, &c. They implant a prejudice and contempt in the minds of children, against our ministers, churches, and the true doctrines of the gospel. I would observe that Elder Seth Y. Wells, and Joseph Hodgson, who were summoned to appear before the hon. Committee, to whom was refered my petition before the senate of 1816, and who testified before them, as stated in my first publication thus:

Q. by Committee. Where is Mr. Chapman? And where are the children?
A. by Wells. I cannot say.
Q. How did Mr. Chapman and the children go away?
A. I cannot say.
Q. Did he take wagon and horses, or sleigh?
A. I cannot say.
Q. How could Mr. Chapman take the children and go from your house, without your knowing it?
A. I cannot say.

My son states that this same Seth Y. Wells, wrote directions where Mr. Chapman should carry them, and he read them, and saw it was Enfield, N. H. and they were taken out of S. Y. Wells’ house in a severe cold night – in the presence of S. Y. Wells and Joseph Hodgson, and two Shaker women and put into a sleigh, and J. Chapman and Joel Wood, (a Shaker) drove them to Enfield, and Joel Wood returned to Niskeuna. That the Shakers read before the family, the memorial [pamphlet] of James Chapman against me, but did not let them know I had published a book or got a law passed, only a divorce, and they believed I was married again.

That after the Shakers in Enfield had heard I was in town, the elders called on him and his sisters, out of bed at midnight, and took them into a mountain, hid them in a barn, half a mile from any house! And towards day they took them out of the barn, dragged them three quarters of a mile father up the mountain where they lay upon the ground until mid day! And for three or four nights successively, mine and Mrs. Dyer’s children were scattered in different parts of the mountains and lay upon the ground, when the health of my Susan was such that she ought to have been under the care of a doctor.

Here I must stop to acknowledge, that I cannot thank the Shakers, for their kindness and tenderness to children, especially young females: for it evidently and conclusively appears, that they will sacrifice even the life of a child to gratify their will. He [source?] states, “that among the Shakers of Enfield there was a child, whose senses were injured, and the Shakers acknowledged that it was occasioned by their beating him on the head! That a man became insane, and would rave every night excessively, and say “I am the Lord’s anointed,” so that the family could not sleep. He fell into a stupor, and died very suddenly. Immediately after his death, the elder men and women held a meeting, and there was great lamentations among them; soon after the Elders spake of him in their family meetings, and said it was not the medicine they gave him that caused his death, but it was an epileptic shock, and forbid any of the family speaking of him to each other, which was not generally the case. That the elders often read to them their book “Mother Ann’s sayings.” It contains an account of the disasters, and the timely and unnatural deaths which have befell those who have persecuted, those that have left them, and what shall befall those who will leave them: warns them not to be disobedient to the Elders, &c. and not to play with cats and dogs for they fill them with evil spirits, together with some very vulgar sayings.” That he “has heard the Shakers laugh and boast how they had cheated the world’s people in the time of the war, by going to Canada after some boxes (which they had previously left there with garden seeds,) and purchasing a quantity of goods, wrapped some about their wastes, filled several boxes and put them below the empty ones, and our custom house officers slightly examined their load, and observed the Shakers are so honest they will not cheat’ and let them pass.

In two months after I arrived in Albany, Mr. Chapman came in pursuit of his son. He counseled with the Shaker’s lawyer what he should do; he told them he would be exposed to the penalty of the law, which was passed in the session of 1818, if he attempted to take the child, he must wait until next session to get it repealed. Mr. Chapman is now in Niskeuna; it is supposed by some, that the Shakers are prepared to petition for a repeal of that law, and suggested by others, their best friends dare not render themselves so unpopular as to present a petition for them. My son is now 14, and I can boast he is much attached to me, and detests the name of Shaker.

The inhabitants of N. Hampshire, are ready to assist me whenever I go after my daughters, but my sources are exhausted, and I have not the means. I must leave them at present, trusting that he who brings to pass all events, will provide a way and means to rescue them from heathenish bondage.E. CHAPMAN

Albany, Feb. 1819

[From: “A Portraiture Of Shakerism …,” By “Mary Marshall” (Mary Marshall Dyer), June 1823 (Stated publication date: “1822”), Pp. 291-305 (original spelling and punctuation retained)]

Source: PK Papers

Mary Marshall Dyer: The World's First Parental Rights Activist

Mary Marshall Dyer
* Portrait of Mary Marshall Dyer made in the 1820s and published in her second book, 1847) *

Mary Marshall Dyer was a tireless advocate for those whose children were parentally kidnapped by a spouse who had joined the Shakers, a communalistic cult which believed familial love was a sin. Dyer was the world's first Anti-Parental Kidnapping Activist. She fought for over four decades against parental alienation as collectivist child-rearing as well as parental kidnapping.

NOTE: The following excerpt from Dyer's 1823 book explains the doctine and practice of the Shakers whereby converts' families were torn apart and family members were systematically indoctinated to develop antipathy to one another -- including children being taught to hate their parents. This practice of induced alienation was the source of a great number of child custody disputes, parental kidnappings and court cases resulting from those parties who refused to accept Shaker interference in their family relations.

EXCERPT from the Preface of "A Portraiture of Shakerism":

Another error of the Shakers’, and one of no small magnitude, if measured by its consequences, is, that of censuring all natural affection as evil, and calling it the work of the Devil. − Those ties of affection which bind parents and children, brothers and sisters, are by the Shakers called carnal affections, and must be wholly destroyed or eradicated from the mind, before a person, whether old or young, can be promoted to any degree of honor or enjoy any peculiar privilege amongst them as a disciple.

If the statement should at first seem incredible to any one, let him attend to the facts as narrated in these pages and attested by credible witnesses, and he will be satisfied that this is a grand article of regulation among the Shakers. Whereas the rule of Heaven in reference to this subject, is, “Honor thy father and thy mother” − “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. − And ye fathers, bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!!” One of the black catalogue of vices, states, the subjects of these crimes would be “without natural affection,” and “disobedient to parents.”

The benevolence which the Creator has so solemnly enjoined upon his intellectual creatures, can never appear in real life, unless the heart be taught in infancy and childhood, by every endearing expression of sympathy and affectionate concern, practically to understand the great moral duties of life, and duly estimate their importance. That system of education, so much eulogized by deists and French philosophers, which teaches that we should be citizens of the world, and overlook with cold disdain on all the near relations of life, is more than barely defective. It must be evident to every reflecting person, that, if the mind be systematically trained to disregard all the tender emotions of our nature towards parents, and the nearest relatives in life, it would be very unnatural and improbable for the heart, under such principles, to feel tenderly for the welfare of society at large.

When the tender emotions of natural affection are extinguished in children, or in persons of mature age, they are fitly prepared for the exercise of every sordid and selfish passion; duly qualified to be the slaves of corruption, and the instruments of cruelty. And all that is necessary in order to bring their pernicious principles into operation, when their minds have passed this ordeal, is, to put before them suitable temptations, or to excite their prejudices. This error of the Shakers mingles itself with all their doctrines, and with all their practical regulations in regard to those children who are placed under their care by guardians or overseers of those poor children, taken from the large cities and sea-port towns as well as to those whose parents are in fellowship with the brethren of in Society. Lured by the hope that their children would be well educated to good trades, and fitted to be useful in society, many poor parents have given their children up to the Shakers; little imagining that their children would soon be taught the sinfulness and criminality of thinking of their parents with affectionate concern, or ever caring for them more than for other individuals. In short, that they ought only to regard the Shakers, and tremble at the idea of disobeying the Holy Father and Mother, who live in the Church.

The methods pursued by the Elders, or those who have the superintendence and management of affairs amongst the Shakers, to prevent any who may leave their society from being able to take any property away with them, or even obtain any consideration for their labor, while with the society, appear to be dictated by avarice, and the most marked injustice. Their practice of insisting that all adult persons who join the society should surrender their property to the community, or church, is a regulation of which perhaps the public ought not to complain.

Every society or corporation has its own peculiar regulations with which the public do not presume to interfere, so long as the peace and well being of society at large is not injured thereby. But the evil complained of relative to the Shakers, is, that they impose upon the ignorant and the young who do not understand their by-laws and regulations, (and who have no idea of the consequences resulting to themselves, from signing covenant, as it is termed) by which all their services become a gift to the Church. And should these deluded individuals ever after leave the Shakers, and ask for any compensation for their earnings, it is in vain they expect any thing from the Shakers.

It has uniformly been the practice of the Elders to instill into the minds of their young diciples and apprentices, the impossibility of their salvation, unless in full fellowship with the Church. To be in full fellowship implies the most complete subjection to the will of the Elders, and entire obedience to all their orders. Without the subjection and obedience to the Elders, they must be cut off from all hope of salvation, and deprived of all privileges among them.

When the ignorance and credulity of these young converts to Shakerism has effectually been wrought upon, so that they have implicit faith in the infallibility of the Father and Mother of the Church, then they are no longer to judge for themselves in any thing. Whatever sacrifice they are called to make, must be made without doubting or delay; to the good opinion and confidence of the public. Their habits of industry and economy, the strict order and regularity with which they proceed in their temporal affairs, the neatness and simplicity of the general appearance of their establishments, together with the thorough manner in which most of their manufactures are executed – all serve to attract the public attention, and gain esteem.

In these particulars they excel, and are so far justly entitled to the reputation which in these respects they enjoy. But on a nearer inspection of their character and sentiments, it is at once evident that their principles and conduct are in several respects, not only subversive of Christian morality, nut as far as their influence extends, operates peculiarly detrimental to the well-being of society. – If the writer be correct, who says, “he that subverts the laws of order, sins against the eternal cause,” the Shakers must stand convicted. At the creation of the world, the laws of order were self evident – and social happiness has ever been enjoyed in their inviolable observance, or ruined by trampling them underfoot.

One question only, need be answered to pass a final decision as to the morality or immorality of the Shakers, in their peculiar manner of life. The institution of marriage – was it from heaven or not? If from heaven, the Shakers must show beyond all contradiction that the lawgiver has annulled that law, before they or any persons on earth, can blamelessly despise it. It were insulting the Majesty of Heaven to suppose, that the rules which infinite wisdom dictated for men’s direction in life, are of trivial importance, and of little consequence to the welfare of society. The experience of nations demonstrates the fact that, if history may be credited, that social and public virtue has prevailed when the institution of marriage has been reverenced as sacred and inviolable – that public, as well as domestic virtue has soon become extinct or known only in name, when this institution has been despised and disregarded. Notwithstanding all the pretended sanctity of monastic life, it is well known that hypocrisy and intrigue have reigned in those retreats. Nor ought the advocates of such a life for a moment to expect that grace, which is the only sure guarantee of virtue, while they set at nought the counsels of Heaven by their practice.

Source: PK Papers

Frederick Engels writes on the Shakers

Source: PK Papers

Parental Kidnapping & Cults: Rhoads, June 27, 1923

Theodore Rhoads

NOTE: This 1923 case represents the last known instance of a Parental Kidnapping involving members of the Shaker cult. There have been scores of such cases involving the Shaers dating back to the 1780s.

FULL TEXT: Four woman and an eight-year-old boy who had journeyed from Raton, N. M., to Jersey City en route to Palestine were apprehended yesterday at 88 Oak Street, Jersey City, by Detective Edward Davis of the Jersey City police at the instance of Leonard C. Rhoads, father of the boy. He charged the woman with kidnapping the lad.

The women are Margery Rhoads, 30 years old, mother of the boy; Emily Hubbell, 60 years old; Anna Douglas, 50 years old, and Carrie Tanner, 28 years old, all of Raton, Colfax County, N. M. The women are followers of the Shaker faith and all declare that they had a vision which led them to undertake their strange journey. They maintain that the Lord directed them to hasten to Palestine, as He is soon to make His appearance there in person, and unless they are there to greet Him they will perish and forfeit eternal rest.

They were to have sailed on Saturday next for Palestine on the Tuscania, which, they say, the only steamer which will sail direct to Palestine before January, 1924.

When the strange quartet of religious zealots and the boy were taken to Police Headquarters in Jersey City and questioned by Chief of Police Richard Battersby he found that they had made solemn oath to stick together until death. Then Chief Battersby suggested that Mrs. Rhoads give the boy over to her husband and go on with the women, but Mrs. Rhoads refused. She said the boy must go to Palestine with her.

Finally she agreed to let the father of the boy take him back to New Mexico, but declared that she would fight for a divorce from her husband and legal guardianship of the boy Theodore, after which they all would make a new start for Palestine.

[“Holy Land Pilgrims Held As Kidnappers – Four Women Arrested in Jersey City on Charge of Stealing Boy in New Mexico,” The New York Times (N.Y.), Jun. 27, 1923, p. 40]

Source: PK Papers

Cesarean Kidnapping

In this crime a pregnant woman is attacked and her fetus is stolen, usually leaving the mother dead. The perpetrator typically is a woman aspiring to motherhood herself. In one variation, the pregnant woman is sedated by a doctor during a prenatal exam and wakes up to find her baby missing. Below are two articles, one on a string of Cesarean kidnappings conducted with the power of the state during Argentina's Dirty War, the second a list of cases from 1974 to 2009. Our previous article on this subject is the case of Heather Snively, but Mr Stephens' list is more extensive. Back in the days of baby farming, it was probably unnecessary for an aspiring mother to commit homicide.



Government Cesarean Kidnapping: Argentina 1976-1983

Argentine Cesarean Kidnapping

EXCERPT from academic article: At the Navy Mechanics School, Admiral [Emilio] Massera “created the regime’s largest and perhaps most brutal concentration camp.” Called the ESMA (Escuela Mecánica de la Armada), it was considered the “Argentine Auschwitz.” Among those detained and tortured were young pregnant women. At both the ESMA and Campo de Mayo Hospital, the junta set up makeshift maternity wards where these women were either given serums or forced to undergo Caesarean sections to accelerate birth. During delivery, the women were blindfolded and tied to beds by their hands and feet. Pregnant detainees rarely survived, and their babies were given to “politically acceptable” parents—families with some connection to the regime. The regime was able to reap considerable profits during the Dirty War from illegal adoption because of the high number of pregnant detainees. This illicit business was so well-organized that some couples were able to choose their baby based on a captive mother’s looks and education. Descriptions of imprisoned pregnant women were provided to military couples seeking babies; those with fair skin and blue eyes were at a premium. Prospective adoptive mothers visited the detained pregnant women, ensuring that they received special treatment to promote healthy deliveries. Once born, the babies were given to their adoptive parents, and their real mothers were systematically killed, ensuring permanent severance of all biological ties. The junta’s goal was erasure of family identities.

[Lisa Avery, “A Return To Life: The Right To Identity And The Right To Identify Argentina’s “Living Disappeared,” Section C: Babies Born in Captivity, Harvard Jouirnal of Law & Gender, Nov. 15, 2004, p. 241]

Source: PK Papers

20 Cesarean Kidnappers: USA, 1974 - Present

Cesarean Kidnappings in the US, 1974-2009

Source: PK Papers

Cesarean Kidnapping


There have been 20 known cesarean kidnappings in the United States (1974-2009).

  1. 1974 – Sweeney – 1 murder

    Nov. 18, 1974 (body found), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Mother: Margaret Sweeney (26), shot 3 times & hacked 20 times with hatchet; has 3 children, 18 mo plus 2 living with estranged husband
    Perp: Winifred Ransom (35): acquitted Jul. 11, 1975 as insane “schizophrenic”; released as “cured” in 1977
    C-Section: removed baby with “butcher knife”
    Child: girl (8 months), survived

  2. (1976 – 1983 – Multiple cases in Argentina “Dirty War”)

    Many thousands of victims
    Adopters: military officers & others chosen by military dictatorship
    C-Section: Performed by physician
    Child: fake identity papers, adopted out but told adopters are real parents

  3. 1987 – Ray – 1 murder

    Jul. 24, 1987, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Jul. 23?)
    Mother: Cindy Lynn Ray, 23, strangled; Father is Samuel Ray; Mormons
    Perp: Darci Kayleen Pierce, 19, the wife of an airman stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base (sentenced to life imprisonment); appealed in 1998
    C-Section: had surgery tools and medical books ready, but didn’t have access so used “plan B,” Car key
    Child: Amelia Ray (8 ½ months), survived; 6 lb, 2 oz, 2 weeks “premature”;
    Book: Jim Carrier, “Hush Little Baby,” 1992

  4. 1992 – Lugo – survived

    Sep. 1, 1992; Brownsville, Texas & Matamoros, Mexico
    Mother: Laura Lugo (25); Kidnapped to Mexico for C-Section in Clinica Matamoros; Recovered child after 2 years; Murdered afterwards
    Perps: Paulyna Botello extradited to Mexico after losing custody of child; Rosa Botello;
    C-Section: Performed by Cecilia Noble, licensed Midwife in Matamoros, Mexico
    Child: Jorge Daniel, survived; but K’d for 2 years before recovery; falsified birth records
    Murdered a year later in unrelated crime

  5. 1995 – Evans / Ward – 3 murders

    November 16, 1995: Addison, Illinois
    Mother: Deborah Evans, stabbed repeatedly, shot in head
    Other victims: & 2 children; Jordan (1 ½ survived), Joshua Evans (7) poisoned, Samantha Ward (10) stabbed,
    Perps: Fedell Caffey, Jacqueline Annette Williams (adopter) sentenced to death, Levern R. Ward (father of cv); clemency 2002
    C-Section: Scissors
    Child: Elijah (Ward/Evans), 9-month survived
    Book: Cox, Bill G., Special Delivery, 2001

  6. 1996 – Curry – 1 murder

    Jan. 31, 1996 Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    Mother: Carethia Curry (17), shot twice in head, boy sealed in trash can and dumped into ravine
    Perps: Felecia Scott (29), “best friend” of victim; has 2 sons; sentenced to life without parole; Frederic Polion (37), sentenced to 20 years,Angela Burton (Felicia Scott’s sister) convicted of hindering prosecution, sentenced to 17 years, conviction overturned
    Child: girl (9 mo) survived
    Book: Diane Fanning, “Baby Be Mine: The Shocking True Story of a Woman Accused of Murdering …”
    TV: “Arrest & Trial” (TV series) “Baby Snatcher” episode (2000)

  7. 1998 – Flores – 2 murders

    Sep. 14, 1998; Fresno, California
    Mother: Margarita Flores (40); body dismembered, found in Tijuana; Father: Heliodoro Cruz
    Perp: Josephine Sonia Saldana (40); Serafin Rodarte (“Witness”) suicide
    C-Section: Method unknown: only head, forearm and hand were found
    Child: Doraelia (8 ½ mo), died

  8. 2000 – Ganief – Attempted murder

    Mar. 2, 2000; Cape Town, South Africa
    Perp: Lazerene Mannoe, 26, former Nambian police officer, pregnant; She was found unfit for trial and declared a ward of the state
    Mother: Tasmidah Ganief, 16, survived; rescued by Vannessa Poleman, 17, Donovan Meiring, 16, and Shamiel Hassiem
    C-Section: breadknife & scissors
    Child: survived

  9. 2000 – Draper – 2 murders

    June 17, 2000; Fernley, Nevada
    Mother: Kathaleena Louisa Draper (17), asphyxiated, rubber glove in throat, body found in dump in garbage bag
    Perp: Erin Rae Kuhn Brown, a 31, aunt, Adoption dispute
    C-Section: Butcher knife
    Child: boy, died; found in garbage bag

  10. 2000 – Andrews – 1 murder

    Sep. 27, 2000: Ravenna, Ohio
    Mother: Theresa Andrews, 23, shot in back
    Perp: Michelle Zonko Bica, 39, suicide, locked self in bedroom when police arrive for questioning shot herself, baby was sleeping nearby
    C-Section: Method unknown
    Child: Oscar Gavin Andrews (9 months), b survived

  11. 2002 – Kaiser – Attempted murder

    Dec. 16, 2002; Fullerton California
    Mother: Elsa Kaiser, 30, survived; stabbed; F = husband
    Perp: Charnetta Simmonsabduel (Charnetta Lavia Simmons), 30, sentenced to life
    C-Section: Victim escaped before incision
    Child: (9 mo), survived, born Dec. 20

  12. 2003 – Simpson – 2 murders

    December 22, 2003: (last seen) Holdenville, Oklahoma
    Mother: Carolyn Simpson, 21, shot in head; Father, Allen Simpson
    Perp: Effie Goodson, 37, acquaintance, not tried (“incompetent”)
    Lead-Up: faked pregnancy; baby shower
    C-Section: Unknown
    Child: boy (6 mo) died

  13. 2004 – Cartagena – Attempted murder

    Jun. 1, 2004, Girardot, near Bogota, Colombia
    Mother: Solangela Cartagena, 25; saved by surgery; drugged, Caesarean was professional” yet “leaves, stones and sand were found in the womb”witnessed by Nicole (2)
    Perp: Luzmila Fierro, mother of 6
    C-Section: razor blade (torn uterus)
    Child: Miguel (8 mo) survived

  14. 2004 – Stinnett – 1 murder

    December 16, 2004, Skidmore, Missouri
    Mother: Bobbie Jo Stinnett, throat cut, strangle?; Father: Zeb Stinnett
    Perp: Lisa Montgomery (36), custody dispute with ex
    C-Section: kitchen knife
    Child: Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived
    Book: Fanning, “Baby Be Mine,” Aug. 2007

  15. 2005 – Brady – Attempted murder

    Feb. 13, 2005; Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
    Mother: Sarah Brady, survived
    Perp: Katie Smith, killed by victim; previous false sexual abuse accusation sent her father to prison; conviction overturned on Mar. 31, 2006
    Lead-up: Faked pregnancy
    C-Section: Escaped before incision; preparation: surgical gloves, cutting instruments, medical gauze, homemade umbilical clamp
    Child: McKaila Grace, survived, born on February 16, 2005
    Book: Sarah Brady, Patrick Crowley & Eric Deters, “Saving Grace: The True Story of a Mother-to-be, a Deranged Attacker, and an Unborn Child,” Nov. 10, 2006
    TV: Oprah, “Headline-Making Survivors,” 2006

  16. 2005 – Oskin – Attempted murder

    Oct. 12, 2005; Pattonville, Pennsylvania
    Mother: Valerie Oskin (31), struck in head by baseball bat & tire iron, sliced; rescued by Adam (17) & Andrew (his father) Silvis; survived (barely) through surgery; permanently diminished sense of taste & smell
    Perp: Peggy Jo Conner (sentenced to 22-50 years)
    C-Section: Box cutter
    Child: survived: boy, adopted out

  17. 2006 – Tunstall – 5 murders

    September 15, 2006 (first body found) Sep 21; East St. Louis, Missouri
    Mother: Jinella Tunstall (23); bludgeoned with blunt object, bled to death
    Other victims: 3 children drowned: DeMond Tunstall (7), Ivan Tunstall-Collins, (2 ½), and Jinella Tunstall (1 ½); bodies found in washer & dryer
    Perps: Tiffany Hall (24),
    C-Section: Scissors
    Child: (7 mo) died

  18. 2007 – Howard – Attempted murder (abandoned)

    July 31, 2007; Clinton, Missouri
    Mother: Amanda Howard (18), survived; tied up; attempt to break neck by twisting head violently
    Perps: Lauren Gash (19 or 20), Alisa Betts (17); Myspace contact
    Preparation: False birth certificate found
    C-Section: escaped before incision; prepared: scissors, x-acto knife
    Child: Ethan Damon Howard, survived, born Aug. 1

  19. 2008 – Camacho Gomez – Murder

    June 27, 2008, Pasco, Washington
    Mother: Araceli Camacho Gomez (27), stabbed multiple times in the chest
    Perp: Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong (23); feigned insanity to avoid trial
    Preparation: hands and feet bound by yarn
    C-Section: box cutter,
    Child: boy, Salvador Gomez, critical condition, survived,

  20. 2008 – Johnson – 1 Murder

    July 17, 2008, Wilkinsberg, Pennsylvania
    Mother: Kia Johnson (19), stabbed
    Perp: Andrea Curry-Demus (38)
    Preparation: bound with duct tape at the wrists and ankles, and there were also layers of duct tape and plastic covering much of her head.
    C-Section: "A very sharp instrument" was used to cut open her belly”
    Child: Boy, Terrell, survived

  21. 2009 – Lee

    September 16, 2008, Hong Kong
    Mother: Mrs. Lee (26)
    Perp.: Leung Sing-ting (27)
    C-Section: kitchen knife, not completed
    Child: died from wounds March 2009

  22. 2009 – Snively – 2 Murders

    June 5, 2009, Hillsboro, Ore.
    Mother: Heather Snively, 21, murdered, body stuffed in a crawlspace beneath Roberts's kitchen
    Perp.: Korena Elaine Roberts, 27, met through
    C-Section: (not described)
    Child: Boy, taken by Roberts to hiospital, died

  23. 2009 – Haynes – 1 Murder

    July 23, 2009, Worcester, Mass
    Mother: Darlene Haynes – murdered, 23, last seen alive, Jul 23; mother of 3 other chn, 5, 3, 18 mo; Body found Monday, decomposing, Jul 27; Died from fractured skull
    Perps: Julie Corey, (Alex Dion vindicated); Plymouth, NH, place of arrest, Wednesday Jul 29
    Lead-Up: faked pregnancy
    C-Section: (not described)
    Child: Girl, 4 lbs., alive, Sheila Marie

  24. 2009 – Adams

    Dec. 1, 2009, Suitland, Maryland
    Mother: Teka Adams, homeless, kidnapped on Dec. 1 & bound; survived
    Perp.: Veronica Deramous, New Hampshire/Maryland; assisted by 17-y-o son
    C-section: cut: box cutters and knives; "abdomen was cut and her intestines, stomach and placenta were exposed," escaped before baby was removed. Escaped after 4 days
    Child: Girl survived, Miracle Sky

Source: PK Papers

Witness Protection

The US government has a witness protection program in which witnesses are placed in a new community with new identities. When children accompany their protected parents, the other parent may be separated from his/her children forever. Here is one case.



Parental Kidnapping & Government Child Kidnapping: Ruffalo, July 19, 1981

Donna Ruffalo

On the night of November 9, 1978, Donna Ruffalo drove to her ex-husband's apartment to pick up her son Mikey, then 9 years old. She found the place deserted.

Her former husband's clothing, furniture and color television sat undisturbed, and his wallet, packed with identification and credit cards, lay abandoned atop a bureau. But father and son, she was soon to learn, had vanished completely. To this day, Donna Ruffalo has not seen her son again.

Donna did not know it then, but she had become a character in a bizarre and horrifying story, one which included all the elements of a classic underworld crime thriller—with one astonishing twist. For although Donna's ex-husband, Michael Ruffalo, had been a member of the Civella. crime syndicate in Kansas City, it was not he, nor any mobster, who had abducted her little boy. The true enemy, it turned out, was a more unlikely and awesome one: the United States Government.

Donna Ruffalo’s ex-husband and her son had disappeared into a mysterious, dangerous and highly controversial Government operation known as the Witness Protection Program. Run under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Marshals Service, it offers security for individuals willing to testify against members of organized crime. To protect the witnesses from mob retaliation, the program permanently relocates them in a state other than the one in which they've testified, changes their identities, promises them lifelong physical protection, new jobs and all the documentation necessary to support their manufactured backgrounds.

Since the early 1970's, over 3,500 people have entered the program and over 95 percent of them have themselves been criminals. In order to secure these valued informants, the Government has also relocated (at their request) over 9 , 0 00 wives, husbands, children and miscellaneous loved ones the witnesses refused to leave behind.

By 1978, Michael Ruffalo had been a mobster for years but had only recently started working the other side of the street as an informant for the F.B.I. Believing he had been marked for mob execution, he saw his surest salvation in the Witness Protection Program. He promised to supply the Federal Government with evidence against significant organized crime figures if it would promise him protection and a new life with his son.

"Two and a half years" I haven't seen my boy," says Donna Ruffalo. "I don't know what Mike's told him. I think Mike probably has told him that I'm dead. And if he did tell him what really happened, I feel he has probably poisoned his mind about me. This has all been just like a nightmare."

Shortly after Donna discovered Mikey and her husband missing, she received a phone call that brought the chilling reassurance that they were safe — with the Government. Donna recalls her progression from a state of shock to a short-lived state of optimism that the Government would make everything right. Initially, she approached the authorities with deference and respect, confident that once they knew the facts, they would clearly see that Mikey belonged with her and would send him back to her.

The facts on her side included these: She and Michael had divorced after only three years of marriage, when Mikey was an infant, and Donna had always had legal custody of the child. She had never received any of the child support a court had determined was due her, and she had worked two jobs to provide Mikey, and her sister, Angela, with a secure existence that included parochial schools, sports teams and Scouting activities. And, finally, it was hardly in Mikey's best interests to abandon him to a fugitive existence with a thrice convicted felon.

But Donna quickly discovered that the authorities were interested neither in hearing the facts nor in hearing from her. She telephoned frantically all over Washington, trying to find someone who would help her. Most Federal officials refused to speak with her; a few transferred her calls to others who said they were not permitted to say anything. She could not even pry information from them as to her son's physical health and wellbeing. Larry Fisher, a high-ranking official in the Marshals Service, told her that it sounded to him as though she and Mr. Ruffalo were "having a domestic quarrel" over their child and sarcastically suggested she get in touch with her husband.

Panicked, Donna turned to a local attorney for help. Together, they discovered that the case was an overwhelming one, filled with complex legal issues. Their progress was tortuously slow. Donna attempted to work as a kind of untrained legal assistant — doing research, calling attorneys and law-enforcement officials.

A friend suggested she tell her story to the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.), which takes on cases of significance to social freedoms without charge. The attorneys with the Children's Rights Project of the A.C.L.U. agreed to take Donna's case and filed a $3 million civil suit in U.S. District Court against the United States Marshals Service and Michael Ruffalo.

According to A.C.L.U. attorney David Hashmall, the case presents a clear-cut violation of court orders dealing with child custody. Explains Hashmall: "The U.S. Marshals have no power to make custody orders — that power lies with the state family courts."

Hashmall hopes the A.C.L.U. suit will set a new pattern'and practice for the way children are affected by the Witness Protection Program. "What we have here," says Hashmall, "is a Government program.coupled with an increasing rate of divorce, and this will be an ongoing problem."

The Witness Protection Program, now 11 years old and operating on a yearly budget of over 21 million dollars, was created in secrecy and operated in secrecy until CBS correspondent Fred Graham discovered it and wrote about it — harrowingly — in his book, The Alias Program. Graham brought to public attention the haunted, crippled lives led by relocated witnesses, the broken promises and bureaucratic ineptitude that leave witnesses stranded without proper credentials and, occasionally, place them in mortal danger.

The agony of parents robbed of their children by the program became widely known when a book was written (by Leslie Waller) and a movie was made (directed by and starring James Caan), entitled “Hide in Plain Sight,” about Tom Leonhard, a Buffalo, N.Y., stonemason whose ex-wife took their children along when she and her second husband, a smalltime Mafia heist man, fled into the program.

Leonhard waged an eight-year battle with the U.S. Government in order to see his son and daughter. He lost the court case — U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Irving Kaufman decided that since the Justice Department had acted "in good faith," the court would not attempt to second-guess the officials' "rational exercise of discretion."

Judge Kaufman's opinion has remained a binding ruling. Consequently, the parents of children who have vanished into the program are usually advised by their attorneys that it would be pointless to take their protests to the courts. The result, Fred Graham says, is that these parents are left without recourse, even when the facts suggest that they have been terribly wronged.

Salvatore Martouche, who was Tom Leonhard's lawyer, says that he has been called by dozens of other parents, from around the country, trapped in the same situation as Donna and Tom.

"The whole thrust of these cases is abuse of power by the Government," Martouche says. "We want a law passed that will establish the precedent that Government agents can't interfere with the rights of parents and children to be together."

Tom Leonhard was finally reunited with his children, after their mother divorced the mobster. But it was not exactly the happy ending he had hoped for. "It choked me up inside when I saw them," Leonhard says. "I expected to see little-children, the way they were when I last saw them. They remembered me — but their mother had told them I was just a friend of the family. I had been wiped out of their minds."

Donna Ruffalo's greatest source of anxiety is Mikey's psychological well-being.

"I don't think Mikey can go out and play like normal children. In a situation like that, you're filled with so much fear — you're always looking over your shoulder."

The A. C. L. U. has thrice filed a Freedom of Information Act request, in an attempt to obtain at least minimal information about Mikey's health and progress. These requests have been refused.

Donna has pleaded with Federal officials for the chance to speak over the telephone, however briefly, with Mikey. When these requests were denied, she offered to travel to a U. S. Marshals office to speak to her son on one of their phones, in case they were concerned that her line was being monitored. "Well have to check with Washington about that," she was told. Washington said no.

About all she is allowed to do is buy Mikey some Christmas and birthday presents which she gift-wraps and takes to a Federal office in Kansas City, where she is given a receipt for them. Whether or not they ever get to Mikey she has no way of knowing.

The Government's position in all of this is that it is simply not answerable to charges. Off teals in the Justice Department say that the absence of any hearing concerning Donna's separation from her son isn't a relevant matter and that her rights have not been violated.

More specifically, they believe that the legal duty to protect persons who agree to testify against organized crime figures supersedes any rights or interests Donna may have.

"We do believe that there is a serious threat to Mr. Ruffalo’s wellbeing because of his testimony. It is not our view that nothing else matters," says Gerald Auerbach, chief counsel for the U.S. Marshals Service.

"It is our view, however, that his whereabouts cannot be disclosed, for any purpose, including for the mother to be in contact with the child."

Or, as Donna puts it: "Mike is beyond reach, and his safety is more important than anything. And to hell with me, and to hell with Mikey, and the rest of Mikey's family and everything else."

Donna and the Kansas City A. C. L. U. hope that their case will come to trial by early fall. The judge for the case, Howard Sachs, recently ordered that a secret 24-page memorandum be turned over to them from the Witness Protection Program.

The memorandum, which was signed by Michael Ruffalo, gives the terms of participation in the program, and one paragraph states that if a minor is granted custody to someone other than the witness who is being relocated, he cannot be relocated. Both Ruffalo, and the U.S. Marshals Service may be in violation of the order. Also pending before the same judge is a motion by the Government to dismiss Donna Ruffalo's suit on the grounds that Michael Ruffalo is not in the law's custody.

Donna acknowledges that "It's going to be a long, hard road," but when presented with arguments suggesting it would be wise to drop the case, her answer is short, simple — and unanswerable.

"This is my only son," she says. "I want him back."

[Mary Lang, “’The Government Stole My Son!’ - Mikey Ruffalo was not abducted by the gangsters his father had exposed but by agents of a controversial Government program known as Witness Protection.,” Family Weekly (Sunday newspaper magazine supplement), Jul. 19, 1981, Cover story, pp. 5 ff.]

Source: PK Papers

Addendum: We regret that the source material has disappeared from Flickr and we can find no postings by Mr Stephens on the internet after 2010.