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Trial begins for Anchorage mom accused of putting hot sauce in adopted Russian son's mouth

Posted: August 17, 2011 - 9:35pm
Jessica Beagley appears in court on the first day of her trial Wednesday in Anchorage. Beagley is charged with misdemeanor child abuse for her methods of disciplining her 7-year-old adopted son from Russia.   Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily-News
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily-News
Jessica Beagley appears in court on the first day of her trial Wednesday in Anchorage. Beagley is charged with misdemeanor child abuse for her methods of disciplining her 7-year-old adopted son from Russia.

ANCHORAGE — Jurors on Wednesday watched video of a woman squirting hot sauce in the mouth of her adopted son and then making him stand in a cold shower in a case that caused a public uproar in Russia after it aired on the “Dr. Phil” show.

Jessica Beagley, of Anchorage, is charged with misdemeanor child abuse. Beagley’s lawyer said she was punishing the 7-year-old boy from Russia because he misbehaved in school and then lied about it.

Beagley used unusual methods because more traditional forms of punishment had not worked with the boy, attorney William Ingaldson said.

Beagley went on the “Dr. Phil” show to try and get help for herself and the boy, Ingaldson told jurors. But, prosecutors say, what Beagley did went beyond what would be considered reasonable parental discipline and amounted to child abuse.

She submitted the nine-minute video, made on Oct. 21, 2010, for an episode titled “Mommy Confessions.” It shows the 36-year-old mother talking forcefully to the boy in a hallway in the family’s home.

“Why did you lie to me? Does it work to lie to me?” she asks the child.

Beagley asks the boy what happens when he lies. “I get hot sauce,” the crying boy replies.

The video shows Beagley leading the boy into a bathroom, where he sits on the counter next to the sink and she squirts hot sauce in his mouth. “Don’t spit it,” she says.

“Are lies supposed to be out of your mouth?” she yells, her arms braced on either side of him. When he admits to lying, she allows him to spit out the hot sauce.

She then explains to the child that he is going to get in a cold shower for lying about misbehavior at school: wriggling in his seat and sword-fighting with pencils.

The video did not show the child in the shower, but the boy’s screams can be heard.

“Listen to your teacher,” she says. “You are to do what you are told.”

Viewers contacted Anchorage police after the “Dr. Phil” episode aired last November.

Beagley and her husband, an Anchorage police officer, are trying to give two orphans a chance at a better life, Ingaldson told jurors. The Beagleys, who have four biological children, adopted the twin boys after they had been in the orphanage for three years.

He said the twins were born to a mother with a drinking problem and a father who was in and out of jail. When Russian investigators caught up with the family, they were living in a shack. The boys slept on shelves in an armoire, he said.

The boys were placed in an orphanage where the mother visited three times before abandoning them, Ingaldson said.

The couple “thought this was their chance to make a difference in kids’ lives,” Ingaldson said.

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