Attorneys say Leekin ran "House of Horrors" - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Attorneys say Leekin ran "House of Horrors"

By Al Pefley email

West Palm Beach, FL (WFLX)

Attorneys have slapped the city of New York with a federal lawsuit  on behalf of ten adopted special needs children, some from our area.

They were all adopted and tortured for years by Judith Leekin, 64 , a Port St. Lucie woman, now behind bars.

Attorneys say the city of New York never should have allowed Leekin to adopt in the first place, and the city of New York violated the children's civil rights by not regularly visiting Leekin's home to check on their  condition.

"It was a system that didn't care," said Ted Babbitt, an attorney for Leekin's adopted children. 

Two attorneys and an 18 year old  teen whom they would only identify as "Ray" spoke to reporters at a news conference in West Palm Beach.

They say the city of New York was negligent, for not doing adequate background checks on Judith Leekin, who used a number of aliases and phony names to take in a number of special needs children as foster children, and later adopt them.  Some had autism, some were mildly retarded.

She later moved to south Florida in 1996  and brought the children with her.

They say Leekin denied them proper food and medical and dental care,  would not allow them to attend school, kept them locked in her house for years, and handcuffed, tortured, burned and beat them while collecting government money for their care.  Their diet consisted of nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  In New York, she kept them in her basement, and in Florida they stayed in her garage.  They were not allowed to go outside.

"Tragically this may be one of the worst child welfare disasters in the history of this country," said Howard Talenfeld, attorney for Leekin's adopted children.

"I feel good 'cause I was out of that house. I didn't feel comfortable in that house," Ray said.

"It's a case that no one can look at and not feel the pain of children who were deprived of their childhood," said Babbitt.

Lawyers would not specify how much money they're seeking in the lawsuit on behalf of Leekin's former adopted children.   Most of them are now adults, and range in age from 17 to 28.  But they estimate each would need at least $15 million dollars to pay for psychiatric care, counseling, vocational training, education and medical and dental care for the rest of their lives.

The New York City Administration for Children's Services responded to the lawsuit with a written statement, saying the city intends to work with these young people to provide them with housing, educational, vocational and medical services in New York City.

And the statement says the City will vigorously defend this lawsuit.

Leekin is now behind bars in Broward County, serving 20 years for fraud and child abuse. 

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