Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2001 /20 Shevat, 5761
He has a family now: 'He just wants
to be a boy'
PLYMOUTH, Ind. | He turned 9 last Thursday.
The little boy who was tortured by Joseph and
Carmen Grad celebrated his birthday with his
new adoptive family. We will not, of course,
publish the location of where the boy and his new
family are living.
How is he doing?
"He's older than his years," one of his relatives told us.
There is some very good news: "He is in excellent spirits," the relative said.
"He feels very secure to have a family that no one is going to be able to take
him away from."
But there is some not-so-great -- if understandable -- news, too:
"He is still afraid of Joseph Grad. He knows that Grad is out of prison."
Grad -- the boy's biological father -- is, as we have been reporting, out of
prison, walking free, and living in Starke County, Ind., just west of Marshall
County. Marshall County is where Grad and his then-wife, Carmen,
repeatedly caged the boy, locked him in a tiny, darkened bathroom closet for
24 hours at a time, chained him so that he could not sit and rest, urinated on
him and rubbed feces into his face. The child was 6 at the time.
Grad, as we reported, is now calling himself Joseph Clemons and
working in a factory in Starke County. Carmen Grad is now calling herself
Carmen Quaife; law-enforcement authorities told us that she is living in a
halfway house in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and is scheduled to be free by this fall.
Both, when they were in prison, said they wanted to re-establish contact with
the boy they tortured; their parole conditions forbid that.
Because the Marshall County Division of Family and Children took no steps
to terminate Joseph Grad's parental rights, the child was not legally eligible to
be adopted. (Marshall County division director Stephen Neff, as we have
been reporting, has been removed from his job because the Marshall County
office, according to Indiana state officials, suffered "total breakdown" under
Through either evident indifference or evident incompetence, Marshall County
workers failed to take steps to begin the termination of the parental rights of
Grad (and of the birth mother who had abandoned the boy) so the child
could find a safe home. They couldn't seem to figure out how to do it.
A private attorney in South Bend, Charles P. Rice, who had read the reports
of the child's torture here, offered his services to the boy and his foster family
free of charge. Working with fellow private attorneys, Rice was able to
quickly accomplish the legal work that made the child eligible to be adopted
and have a real family. The adoption has now been finalized.
"This is something that should have been done by the [Marshall County]
agency that was entrusted to protect [the boy]," Rice said. "That's what
they're there for. This was sheer bureaucratic indifference."
During our initial reporting of the case, official spokesmen for the State of
Indiana consistently said that the Marshall County Division of Family and
Children had done a conscientious and professional job on the Grad case.
Now, though -- with Neff removed as county director following a state
investigation of the handling of other cases in the county -- James Hmurovich,
state director of the Indiana Division of Family and Children, told us:
"In regards to the Grad case, in view of what we have found out, if you were
to ask me, `Do you believe that your office in Marshall County was acting in
the best interests of that child?' I could not look you in the eyes and say yes."
But that is the past. What matters now is the boy's future.
"He's extremely bright," the relative with whom we spoke told us. "He's
happy to be living in a house with a father and a mother and brothers and
sisters. He's doing well in school [he is in the 3rd grade], and making friends."
The physical scars from the torture are beginning to fade, the relative said:
"For months, he had a large sore on his forehead from where he had leaned
his head against the wire fencing, trying to sleep. They had wrapped the wire
tightly around him in the bathroom closet where he was kept, and they had
chained him so that he had to stand. His head would press against the wire
when he dozed off, and it took a while for the sore to heal. He used to try to
cover it with a baseball cap, but it's better now."
His skin, the relative said, had been flaky and raw from where Joseph Grad
had urinated on him, but that's better now, too. Some of the indignities to the
boy, while not as dramatic as the torture, were just as heartbreaking:
"He had never been taken to a dentist in his life. So when [after Joseph and
Carmen Grad were in prison] he was finally taken to a dentist's office, the
dentist had to put him to sleep while the work was being done, because there
was so much of it."
He just wants to be a boy now, the relative said. Joseph Grad, now Joseph
Clemons, may be out, and living in this same part of rural north-central
Indiana; Carmen Grad, now Carmen Quaife, may be on the verge of getting
out. But the child is 9 now, and he has a family, and he just wants to feel safe,
and to be allowed to be a boy.
"I've never seen him cry or whine," the relative said. "But I have seen him
laugh. He's just at the age where he's getting interested in things. He's
fascinated with learning about how things work -- machines and things. He's a
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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