Girl locked in bathroom for years. Police don't follow tips.

Tara - posted on 02/10/2011 ( 5 moms have responded )

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DAYTON — For six years, Shelli Ridge has been haunted by the child abuse she suspected was occurring next door when she lived in the Woodman Park Apartments in Dayton’s Eastern Hills neighborhood.

Ridge — then an 18-year-old premed student at Wright State University — was concerned about the little girl, who was about 3 years old, whose screams she heard often.

“I frequently heard a lot of commotion, a lot of kids crying,” said Ridge, who is four months from graduating from Ohio University’s medical school, where she is studying to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine. “I heard the little girl scream at one point and say, ‘Mommy, don’t hit me.’ ”

At least twice, Ridge called 911 to report her suspicions, urged to do so by her mother, Lori Wulf, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital, who told her daughter the police would contact Montgomery County Children Services.

Ridge said she never saw a police car come out to investigate and was left to wonder what happened to the girl and the other children living in the apartment at 4825 Hassan Circle after she had moved away a year later.

On Wednesday, while working at a hospital in Sandusky, Ridge received an urgent text message from her mother in Miamisburg. She had read the news that her daughter’s former neighbors, Brian Hart, 50, and his wife, Rivae L. Hart, 49, were indicted Feb. 4 on felony charges of kidnapping and child endangering.

They are accused of keeping the 9-year-old girl they were legal guardians of locked in a bathroom for years, letting her out only to go to school.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Wulf, who texted her daughter: “SHELLI!!! Your neighbor from college was arrested for keeping the little girl locked in the bathroom.”

Ridge said she found news about the child’s ordeal upsetting.

“I was very upset in the sense I was there years ago. I called police,” she said. “It could have been much less (time in captivity) if someone had followed through with my phone calls.”

Wulf said her daughter has “lamented” about the situation ever since.

The Harts became legal guardians of their grandchildren — the girl and her 8-year-old brother in 2004, said Ann Stevens, spokeswoman for Montgomery County Job and Family Services. The Harts’ two biological sons, ages 12 and 14, also lived at the family’s apartment. All four are now in foster care.

Stevens said all they know is that the girl’s parents lived in another state and that custody shifted to the grandparents between 2003 and 2004. Job and Family Services is searching to find those parents.

“We don’t have a clue where they are,” said Stevens, adding that the Harts have no known relatives in the Dayton area.

Dayton Police Sgt. Larry Tolpin said Brian Hart is employed at a department store warehouse, but did not know which one. Rivae Hart did not work outside of the home, he said.

Ridge said she once confronted Rivae Hart after she heard the little girl scream. Ridge said she knocked on their door and said, “I know what you are doing in there and if you don’t stop, I will call the police.”

Ridge said Rivae Hart came to the door and denied anything was happening. The two exchanged words and Ridge said she called the police when she returned home.

A search of the Dayton police information system Wednesday found no record of Ridge’s calls.

But there were police reports filed by the Harts.

In 2004, Hart told a police officer that someone made a false allegation of child neglect to Montgomery County Children Services. All phone calls to children services and police were anonymous, but Rivae Hart told the officer she suspected a neighbor, but couldn’t prove it.

In 2008, Brian Hart reported he was getting harassing phone calls from an anonymous male. He played a voice-mail message of a man yelling obscenities, according to that police report.

The Harts told police they began confining the 9-year-old girl in a bathroom when she started exhibiting behavioral problems at age 3, Tolpin said.

The girl was let out of captivity to get on the bus and go to school, but spent the rest of her days and nights locked in the bathroom, Tolpin said. She was allowed out occasionally for special occasions, such as when relatives visited, but police believe the last time occurred at Christmas 2007.

The Harts gave statements to police corroborating key parts of the girl’s story, he said.

According to Tolpin, the girl confided in some adults when she was in the first grade, but nothing happened so she distrusted adults. He said Wednesday he does not know who the girl talked to three years ago. The girl disclosed the earlier attempt during the interview process.

“If somebody dropped the ball, we don’t want it happening again,” he said.

Everything else the girl has disclosed “has really been spot on,” in terms of corroboration with other evidence, Tolpin said.

Shawna Welch, principal at Wright Brothers PreK-8 School at Grant where the girl excelled in school making honor roll every quarter but the last one, said the child never talked about it with any of her teachers.

But she did feel comfortable confiding in school nurse Linda Eads, who worked for the Dayton Public Schools since 1995, according to Marianne Urban, director of health services for the district.

Urban described her as an excellent nurse trained to look for signs of abuse.

“I know she has a good relationship with the kids in the building,” Urban said.

Welch called Eads a strong advocate for children who contacted Family Services on Jan. 18 and was persistent in following up with the agency.

“I have to give credit to my school nurse, who is very adamant about not letting something lay on someone’s desk and not being taken care of,” Welch said.

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So? Who failed this child?
Did the neighbour do enough to help this child?
What about the Harts calling the police to report a "false" claim of abuse to child services? To me that reeks of the Harts being preemptive in their quest to keep this a secret. Rather than deal with the allegations of abuse they simply complain that the neighbour is too nosy and so no one follows through on the tips???
I'm outraged that these people lived in an apartment for years with a kid locked in their bathroom and no one noticed, and those who did were not taken seriously?

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Louise - posted on 02/10/2011

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If this was me reporting this situation I would follow up on it and ask what the hell was going on. maybe the girl was quiet after the police visit I don't know. Why did the school not work out that this child was in distress it is not hard to pick the children out that need help. I have worked in schools for years and children that are having a tough time are shy, loaners, and a wall flower. This is not child like behaviour and this is when alarm bells ring. I think that this situation is an alround failure from the police the school the neighbours and society in general. Poor child I hope she is strong enough to put this to one side and try to move on with her life.

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Krissy - posted on 02/11/2011

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yes, the responsibility for this is mostly on the grandparents. Although, if the neighbor DID call the cops, which should be on record, right? (but were no records of her calling them)... Then the PD also dropped the ball. The person the little girl allegedly told dropped the ball too.



Otherwise, yeah, it's hard to recognize abuse... but I had CPS called out once on me because of something really tiny... they USUALLY check on every little tiny thing... so I don't get why some reports still go un-investigated.



ps... my issue was something so tiny, I never gave it second thought. My daughter was fibbing to me, my hands were full with a poopy baby, diapers, and diaper cream.... I tapped her on the head with the diaper cream and said, "stop fibbing."... not angry.. just a lil tap and correction as I walked by...



Well, she told the school I hit her LOL! And they pulled her into counselors office for the next several weeks trying to dig up more dirt.... finally came out to investigate. It was a pain, but I'm glad that we have people interested in the welfare of kids. The lady who came out really liked what I was doing and told me she'd list it as a safe home... never heard anything else about it. However, the school counselor has given me the evil eye ever since....



But I home school now... LOL! I wonder what the man thinks NOW!!!

Amanda - posted on 02/10/2011

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Who failed this child?? Her GRANDPARENTS failed her the moment they felt locking a child in a bathroom was the way to deal with bad behaviour.

Louise I know those are common signs of child abuse, but not always. I know plenty of "wall flower" children who are not abused, my son is a loaner, my daughter is extremely shy, and they are not abused.

This child was on honour roll, I bet she never missed a day of school, there prob was very little reason to suspect abuse. If teachers jumped on every kid with the characteristics you listed there, many families would be investigated for abuse, and the system would be even more taxed than it already is.

Lacye - posted on 02/10/2011

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Personally I think the neighbor was only calling the police because the child was making enough noises that she could hear them. After she left, it was out of sight out of mind.
I think a lot of people failed this child. The police did when they didn't take the neighbor's calls seriously. The teachers did when the little girl first told them what was going on. Thank God there are still people like the nurse that actually cares enough to follow through and make sure something was done to help the girl.
I just can't imagine what that poor child went through for those 6 years. That's just horrible.

Bonnie - posted on 02/10/2011

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Poor girl. People didn't notice anything because they let her go to school and let her out when family visited and when there were special occasions. My guess is this is why the parents did this so no one would suspect anything. Because anyone who could do that to a child really doesn't care about their education or happiness with family and friends, IMO.

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