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Witness: Social workers found no maltreatment at home of Russian boy punished with hot sauce

Posted: August 20, 2011 - 10:39pm

ANCHORAGE — A child welfare official has testified that social workers found no signs of maltreatment when they investigated an Alaska woman accused of punishing her adopted son by putting hot sauce in his mouth.

Virginia Moring, a supervisor in the Office of Children’s Services, testified Friday that the social workers decided not to remove the boy from the home of Jessica Beagley.

The 36-year-old Anchorage woman was charged with child abuse after video aired on an American self-help TV talk show showing her using unconventional methods to punish the 7-year-old, who was adopted with his twin brother from a Russian orphanage. The case caused an uproar in Russia after the “Dr. Phil” episode showed Beagley putting the hot sauce in the boy’s mouth, and the boy’s cries could be heard as he is forced to stand in a cold shower.

Her lawyer, William Ingaldson, has said the boy was being disciplined for lying about misbehavior at school.

Moring said social workers made the decision after they interviewed Beagley and her husband, Gary, an Anchorage police officer, as well as their co-workers and officials at the children’s school.

Moring said they also talked to the children, who said “they felt safe,” The Anchorage Daily News reported. At the conclusion of the investigation, “we did not intervene,” she said.

The boy remained in the home, and Beagley sought help from mental health professionals for what she described as repeated behavioral problems, including urinating on the floor of his bedroom and lying.

Prosecutors claim Beagley went beyond what would be considered reasonable parental discipline. Ingaldson said she resorted to unconventional disciplinary methods because more traditional forms of punishment had not worked with the boy.

Beagley adopted the boy and his brother after their parents abandoned them, Ingaldson said.

The defense rested its case Friday. Beagley waived her right to testify.

Closing arguments were scheduled for Monday.

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