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Arraignment set in Walworth County adopted child abuse case

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Stan Milam
July 7, 2012

— Lynne Marquette said she knew something “was way not right” at the town of Bloomfield home of Kathleen and Martin O’Brien when she saw a girl struggling with a push mower.

“This young girl, maybe 13 or 14 and little, was trying to push this old rusty push mower through tall grass and weeds,” said Marquette, who lives near the O’Briens. “We were out for a walk, and when we came back that way about four hours later, she was still in the same spot trying to push that mower.

“My husband tried to push it and he was having trouble,” Marquette said. “It was very odd, and we wondered what was going on, especially since I know they have a riding mower.”

Marquette said she told a friend about the incident.

“My friend has contacts with the county, and she reported it,” Marquette said. “The next thing I knew, the story about the adopted children was in the paper.”

Marquette recounted the mowing incident while waiting for a preliminary hearing Friday for the O’Briens. Judge John Race found probable cause that the O’Briens had committed multiple felonies against their adopted children and ordered that they be bound over for trial. An arraignment was scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 31.

The felony charges, which prosecutors say began in 2004, all involved adopted children now age 13 to 19. The felony charges include:

-- Holding a child down and kicking him in the groin.

-- Spraying pepper spray into a child’s face.

-- Striking a child in the face.

-- Picking a child up by the neck.

-- Placing a bucket over a child’s head and striking the bucket with a stick.

-- Kneeing a child in the genitals.

-- Grabbing a child by the ear causing the ear to tear and bleed.

-- Striking a child on the hand with a ruler, causing the ruler to break and the hand to swell.

-- Placing a child in a bin and striking the bin with a log, causing the child’s head to swell.

-- Striking a child in the chest with a flashlight, causing pain and numbness in the child’s body.

-- Stabbing a child in the hand with a pocketknife.

The O’Briens also are charged with multiple misdemeanors involving the adopted children including:

-- Forcing the six adopted children to stand naked on the front porch and watch Kathleen and Martin O’Brien and their biological children eat dinner.

-- Forcing the children to kneel on rocks, patio blocks or concrete as a punishment.

-- Forcing the children to stand naked outside the residence on metal trash cans.

-- Locking the children in a bedroom on one occasion for four to five days. They were let out three times a day to use the bathroom.

-- Forcing the children to kneel on sharp rocks in a dog kennel for six to seven hours at a time. One child reported that his time in the kennel was increased because he sought shade.

-- An adopted child being choked because Martin O’Brien did not like the child’s prayer.

-- Forcing the children to eat frozen bread off the floor before they went to bed.

-- Forcing one child to stand in snow with his shoes off as punishment for helping another child shovel the driveway.

-- Forcing one child to stand in the cold with no shoes or socks until his feet turned blue as punishment for stealing food.

Race said he found probable cause on all charges and his order will bind the O’Briens over for trial on all charges.

The O’Briens have six adopted children: three boys, two girls and an adult female, all from Russia

Kathleen O’Brien, 49, is charged with four felony counts of child abuse intentionally causing harm and seven counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Martin O’Brien, 49, is charged with seven counts of felony child abuse intentionally causing harm and five counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

In a separate hearing Friday, the defense asked that a 17-year-old adopted boy testify. Several counts indicated that the 17-year-old told investigators what happened to his bothers and sisters, but the younger children affected did not make the allegations.

The boy will turn 18 July 30.

Race said the boy’s testimony could be a factor in the case, but his testimony would serve no purpose at Friday’s preliminary hearing, which was held to determine probable cause, not guilt or innocence.

The defense also unsuccessfully tried to obtain more information from a journal kept by Kathleen O’Brien. The journal is mentioned in two counts of the criminal complaint that Bloomfield Police detective Lori Domino said was a resource in preparing her report.

Defense attorneys asked Domino questions regarding other information in the journal, but Race sustained objections from the prosecution, which argued that the journal entries served no purpose in determining probable cause.



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