An Iowa couple accused of neglecting their adopted children have been placed on two years of probation after receiving deferred judgments.
Kenny Fry, 42, and Kelly Fry, 40, of Osceola, pleaded guilty to two counts each of child endangerment, an aggravated misdemeanor, according to Iowa court records. Both had originally pleaded not guilty to felony charges.
The initial charges came after medical professionals in February 2018 determined that two of the couple’s seven children were malnourished. The victims, a 10-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy, were adopted years earlier from Ghana, authorities said.
The Frys must also each complete 100 hours of community service before Jan. 1 and pay a civil penalty of $12,500. Original charges of child endangerment causing bodily injury and neglect or abandonment of a dependent person were dismissed.
The order filed Thursday by Clarke County District Judge Dustria Relph references dissatisfaction in the public with the Frys avoiding prison. Relph wrote that the husband and wife handled poorly the adopted children’s behavioral problems but had sought out help and received some poor advice, though she emphasized that that did not relieve them of culpability.
Supporters sent letters to Relph praising the Frys. Clarke County Attorney Adam Ramsey agreed with the Frys’ attorney in recommending deferred judgments. The prosecutor’s office “has a unique grasp of this complicated and difficult case,” Relph wrote.
Relph also quoted at length from prosecutors’ written recommendation for sentencing: “This is about a young couple who got in over their heads in a failed adoption, made poor decisions, and didn’t get help when they needed it, at least not the right help. The defendants made some serious mistakes and, even though they may not be wealthy, I believe they should pay a hefty debt to society even if those payments take several years. On the other hand, I also feel strongly that if they pay that debt and fulfill term of probation, they should not be marked as criminals for life.”
Officers were initially contacted in late January 2018 by an Iowa Department of Human Services caseworker investigating possible child abuse at the Fry household in the 600 block of S. Main Street in Osceola. Authorities said that one day earlier, a neighbor reported finding two children knocking on the door of their home and crying to be taken in.
After being removed from the home, the children — then 8 and 9 years old — told officials they were required to spend most days isolated in their bedrooms and used plastic buckets as a toilet. If they left their rooms, which were not locked, an alarm would sound and each child would be disciplined by being forced to perform squats and pushups, according to a criminal complaint.
One of the children indicated that the alarms were added to their doors because they would sneak out to take food.
About a week after the children were placed with relatives, officials said a physical examination determined that the girl exhibited an anxious and withdrawn mood. She had several small wounds not healing properly, which a nurse said was likely caused by malnutrition.
The girl, who weighed 50 pounds, also had a distention of her abdomen consistent with malnutrition, while the boy was undersized for his age.
An officer noted that five of the seven children’s bedrooms were typical. The other two shared a room that was divided into two segments.
The officer described the segmented rooms as bare. Each contained a small plastic mat, a blanket and a shelf on a wall. No other furnishings or personal items were present, except a plastic bucket used as a toilet, court records show.
Kelly Fry indicated to a DHS worker that she and her husband constructed the rooms months earlier after the two children displayed bad behavior. She said the two would defecate and urinate in their rooms, so it became each child’s responsibility to clean up after themselves, police said.
In a later interview with authorities, the two children said they were not allowed to eat breakfast if they used the buckets and failed to clean them outside. One child said the two received oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while the other children did not have food restrictions.
Authorities said that since the children were removed from the Fry residence, they have not displayed the poor behavior alleged by the couple.