Bail lowered in case of Wasilla mother charged with starving adopted kids
A judge has reduced the $100,000 bail of a Wasilla woman accused of starving and abusing three of her adopted daughters.
After a hearing that was partially sealed to the public, Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton lowered Echo Terry’s bail to $25,000 along with a court-approved third party custodian and electronic monitoring. Wolverton also ordered that Terry have no contact with the children’s foster-to-adopt parents.
Terry, who turned 29 on Tuesday, was arrested in May and charged with 15 counts including first-degree assault and child endangerment.
Prosecutors say Terry starved and socially isolated three biological sisters she adopted from state foster care in August 2013. After her arrest, the girls were hospitalized for malnutrition, dehydration, neglect, and risk of refeeding syndrome, a potentially deadly condition, according to court documents.
The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) had placed three biological sisters – then ages 1, 6, and 8 -- in Terry’s care in 2011 two months after Terry became a licensed foster parent. A fourth sister was placed in Terry's care shortly after her birth on Nov. 14, 2012. All four children are now with an Anchorage family who expects to adopt them later this month.
At a June bail hearing, Wolverton said he was unwilling to release Terry on an unsecured bond, as requested by her public defender, because he needed more time to review the grand jury evidence in the case.
On Tuesday, Wolverton called it a difficult case and described the charges against Terry as serious.
Public defender Gary Soberay asked Wolverton to close the hearing to the public to help protect confidential information about the children while they were in Terry’s care.
“Under my interpretation of the law, it has to be sealed,” said Soberary.
Wolverton granted the request. After about an hour, the public was allowed to re-enter the courtroom.
After the hearing ended, the children’s foster father said he wished the hearing had remained open to the public and he wanted Terry’s bail to remain at $100,000.
“We’re definitely nervous about this person. We’ve seen the pictures of what she has done to the children. Our thought in our minds is that a person who can do this to children is capable of anything so it does not help me sleep at night,” Dimitri Shein said. “She nearly killed the children. It was pretty bad.”
The courtroom was filled with supporters of Terry, many of them members of Calvary Chapel South Anchorage who spoke at a previous bail hearing on her behalf. Church members and former employees have described Terry as a hard worker and a loyal and faithful person that would never harm a child.
Shein, the children's foster father, said he finds it’s “very disturbing” the amount of people who attend court hearings to support Terry.
“You can see the courtroom was packed with people. And out of 20 or 30 people who are supporting the abuser, none of them are here to support the children,” he said.
KTUU has reached out several times to Calvary Chapel South Anchorage’s pastor Jeff Steiner but he has declined all interview requests. A phone message left on the church's answering machine was not returned on Tuesday.
The oldest girl adopted by Terry was found by Shein’s wife who was out jogging and thought the child looked malnourished. The girl told her about the abuse and starvation she and her sister were suffering while in Terry’s care.
Police were called and the children were examined by Alaska C.A.R.E.S., an outpatient clinic at Providence Alaska Medical Center that screens for sexual and physical abuse of children. According to a bail memorandum by prosecutors, the children's weight had dropped dramatically during the two years Terry had them.
The girls are now 12, 11, 6, and 3. They’re enrolled in public school and summer camp, Dimitri Shein said.
Four of the girls’ biological relatives, including a great-grandmother, attended Tuesday’s hearing.
“I just want the girls to be safe, to not have to fear, to not have to worry. They’ve already been through enough,” said Annamiek Analook, who said she is a second cousin.
Terry's next court appearance is scheduled for July 27.