Two Ghanaian children may have thought they were headed for a fairytale when they were adopted by American couple Kenny and Kelly Fry but their nightmare was about to begin
After being removed from the home, the children — an 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy — told officials they were required to spend most of their days isolated in their bedrooms, where they used plastic buckets as a toilet. If they came out of their rooms, which were not locked, an alarm would sound and they would be disciplined by being forced to do squats and pushups, according to a criminal complaint.
One of the children, both of whom were adopted by the Frys a few years ago, indicated the alarms were added to their doors because they would sneak out of their rooms to take food. The girl said she did not get enough food, telling investigators, "I'm hungry," authorities said.
About a week after they were placed with relatives, a physical examination determined the girl exhibited an anxious and withdrawn mood, officials said. She had several small wounds that were not healing properly, which a nurse said was likely because of nutrition deficiency.
The girl, who weighed 50 pounds and stood at 46 inches tall, had a distention of her abdomen that was consistent with malnutrition. She gained five pounds and did not grow in height from the year before; a child her age should grow two to three inches a year, authorities said.
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Weighing 69 pounds and standing at 53 inches, the boy also had levelled off on the growth chart, according to the complaint. The two were neglected, a nurse determined.
The investigation began Jan. 30 when officers were contacted by a state Department of Human Services caseworker who was investigating a possible child abuse complaint at the Fry household in the 600 block of South Main Street in Osceola. The day before, a neighbour reported that two children knocked on a door of the home for 45 minutes, crying to be let in, authorities said.
An officer said five of the seven children's bedrooms were typical. The other two children shared a bedroom that was divided into two rooms made of wood.
The officer described their rooms as bare, each containing a small plastic mat, a blanket and a shelf on a wall. No other furnishings or personal items were in the rooms except a plastic bucket used as a toilet, according to the complaint.
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Kelly Fry indicated to the DHS worker that she and her husband constructed the rooms months earlier after the two children displayed bad
In a later interview with authorities, the children said they would not be allowed to eat breakfast if they went to the bathroom in their buckets and did not clean them outside. One child said the two got oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but that the other children did not have food restrictions.
The caseworker said Kelly claimed the kids chose to use the buckets instead of the home's bathrooms.
Since they were removed from the home, the children have not displayed the poor behaviour the Frys claimed they had, authorities said. The two have been engaged in therapy, and about three months since they were removed, the girl has gained eight pounds, according to court documents.
The Frys were released from the Clarke County Jail after posting $17,000 bond. The two and their attorney could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Kenneth Fry is the younger brother of State Rep. Joel Fry, a Republican who represents the 27th District. In an email, he said he had no comment.
The Iowa Attorney General's Office will prosecute the case after the Clarke County Attorney's Office cited a conflict of interest, a spokesman said.