WASHINGTON, April 3 (By Carl Schreck for RIA Novosti) – A Russian-born teenager at the center of a brewing international scandal has denied allegations that she was sexually abused by her adoptive American father in Texas, a local law enforcement official told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
“The daughter did not make the accusations, a friend did,” Hardin County Sheriff Ed Cain, whose office led the initial probe into the claim, said in a telephone interview from Kountze, Texas. “When we questioned the daughter, she denied the accusations.”
Cain declined to identify the name of the individual who made the claim of sexual abuse.
Cain made the comments several hours after Russia’s federal Investigative Committee announced it had opened a probe into the possible abuse of the girl and two other teenage children adopted from Russia by the Silsbee, Texas, family in 2003.
Texas child protective services said this week that they had received an anonymous tip alleging sexual abuse of one of the siblings while in the custody of her adoptive parents.
The adoptive mother told RIA Novosti that her husband had been accused of raping their 16-year-old adopted daughter, an allegation the mother denied.
Both Texas and Russian officials have identified the children and their parents by name. RIA Novosti is withholding publication of the names due to the sensitive nature of the allegations and the involvement of underage children.
The girl and her 15-year-old sister have been placed in foster care pending an April 16 civil hearing. Their 17-year-old brother is missing and officially considered an “endangered runaway.”
A woman who answered the phone at the foster care facility where the adoptive mother said the girls are living told RIA Novosti that she could neither confirm nor deny whether the adopted children were residing there.
Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, said in a statement Tuesday that an acquaintance of the boy had spoken with him by telephone in the past few months.
The accusations, which grabbed national headlines in Russia this week after Astakhov published information about the allegations of abuse on his Twitter feed and in an official statement, come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the United States over international adoption.
After Washington enacted the so-called Magnitsky Act in December, introducing financial and visa sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights abuses, Moscow banned US citizens from adopting Russian children.
The adoptive parents told RIA Novosti in separate telephone interviews Wednesday that they did not know whether their daughter denied the rape allegation, which they say they first learned about a day after the girl purportedly got in trouble at school.
Child protective services told the couple “there had been charges of me raping her every day or something,” the children’s adoptive father said.
“It just kind of broke my heart,” the father told RIA Novosti. “Before that I thought we got along pretty good. There had been times when they accused us of beating them and things like that, and [child protective services] came out and couldn’t find any marks on them.”
Shari Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in Beaumont, Texas, declined to comment on the specific details of the alleged abuse.
She told RIA Novosti this week, however, that authorities had checked out repeated accusations that the parents were abusing the three children beginning in 2004. None of the claims proved conclusive enough to remove the children from the home, she said.
The adoptive mother said the children had repeatedly made false claims of abuse against the couple and had threatened them with physical violence as well. She said the couple is currently filling out paperwork to relinquish their parental rights to the children.
Pulliam said she could not immediately confirm the couple’s intention to give up the rights to the children, who are biological siblings born in the city of Krasnokamsk in the Russian region of Perm.
Astakhov on Tuesday called on Texas authorities to conduct a “thorough” investigation of the abuse claims. In a statement, he cited a Texas social worker, whom he identified as Diane Black, as saying the children had suffered abuse at the hands of their adoptive parents.
Astakhov also said the 16-year-old adopted girl had written a letter, dated March 8, to the Russian embassy about her adoptive family. He posted a picture of a handwritten letter as evidence but did not disclose the contents of the letter. The photograph was taken so as to obscure much of the information in the correspondence.
The Hardin County sheriff’s department turned the case over last week to the Texas Ranger Division, which conducts criminal investigations at the state level, at the request of the Russian consulate in Houston, according to Cain, the county sheriff.
“They didn’t feel like we were doing a good enough job, so we felt like we should turn this over to the Texas Rangers,” Cain told RIA Novosti.
A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Russian diplomats had requested that Texas Rangers join the investigation because local authorities have been unable to find the couple’s missing adopted son.
The Texas Rangers did not immediately respond to a voicemail message left Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.
A hearing at Hardin County Court is set to be held April 16 to present the facts in the case.
Correspondents Maria Young and Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report for RIA Novosti.