Woman sent to prison for abusing children
June 12, 2007
The adoptive mother of two special needs children was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison, accused of depriving the 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl of food and water, which resulted in severe malnourishment.
District Judge Dave Gamble told Sandy June Linn, 38, she must serve 18 months before she is eligible for parole. She has been in custody for 140 days.
The case came to light when Linn’s teenage children contacted welfare officials concerned about the treatment of the children which authorities said began in January 2003 and continued until October.
According to prosecutor Kris Brown, Linn and her husband adopted the children in California.
Their biological parents were drug users and the children were born with developmental problems.
“I know I made mistakes,” Linn told the judge. “I wish I would have got help. I think I would benefit from probation and I could get help on the outside.”
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Brown, reading from the older children’s journals which documented the abuse, said the little boy was locked in his room or forced to sleep under the stairs, sometimes on nails.
A blanket was stuffed in a heater and the temperature of the house was as low as 53 degrees.
Brown said when the little boy was taken to a psychiatric facility in Reno for observation and treatment, he would hoard food, eating until he vomited.
At 6, the little girl was the size of an average 31Ú2-year-old.
She said when Linn would cut off their water, the children would drink from the toilet.
The little girl suffers from bone disease and liver damage which doctors said is consistent with neglect.
Once the children were removed from the home, they were growing at up to three times the average for children their age.
Brown said she considered the older children victims, too, forced to witness the abuse and to sneak food to their brother and sister.
Lawyer Tod Young said although the abuse was horrific, Linn did not intend to hurt the children.
“This is kind of a ‘special needs’ mom,” he said. “I am not trying to turn pity to her. Clearly these children are victims. Her own kids didn’t want her to continue to victimize them. She had no good parenting as she was raised.
“She had to educate herself. She learned to manipulate people to survive as a child,” Young said.
Young said Linn probably shouldn’t have had more children.
“She thought they would be better off in a family than the foster system,” Young said.
He said Linn felt she treated the children better than she was treated.
At that point, Gamble interrupted.
“No place in her record does it say she had her own feces smeared in her face. What happened to these children is outside all parameters of what happened to her. There was a failure to be fed, to have water. No parenting would have been substantially healthier than this parenting,” Gamble said.
Young asked for probation so Linn could continue counseling and return to work. He pointed to the successes of her three older children.
“She doesn’t walk on the scene with the intent to brutalize these children. She’s a lousy mom, but she’s way better than she ever had,” he said.
Gamble, who also presided over the civil proceeding to determine if the children were in need of protection, said he had to “constantly remind myself that two children have been sorely treated.”
“What I have not heard is that these things did not happen,” he said.
“These two children were victimized by their biological parents, then, through the state of California, they were victimized by their adopted mother. It’s likely when they are older and understand what happened, they may think they were victimized by me for taking them away from their adoptive mother,” Gamble said.
He praised Linn’s older children for calling authorities.
“You were in a horrible place. You reported, you had no choice. You love your mom,” he said.
“You should know that you are the heroes in this case,” he said. “I simply am sorry this has happened in your life.”
Gamble said he didn’t believe much of what Linn said and was concerned that she seemed to have little or no remorse.
A year ago, Linn fabricated the birth of a daughter, placing an announcement in The Record-Courier, then telling family and friends the baby died.
He told the children’s adoptive father, who is in the process of divorcing Linn, that their “only hope for wellness” depends on him.
He was separated from Linn, living in California, and said he was unaware what was happening to the children.
In considering Linn’s sentence, Gamble said he weighed several factors.
He said he didn’t believe Linn would hurt the children again because she will have no access to them.
“Deterrence remains a factor,” he said. “The public must know if children are damaged this way, there will be punishment. There does need to be justice for the impact that was done to these children.”
The judge said he would not grant probation.
“When I put people on probation, it’s because they fully, utterly recognize their wrong. They are cognizant of it, and repentant.”
He said he didn’t doubt that Linn would complete probation but felt it didn’t equate with what she had done.
“The theme of all her statements is that she didn’t know better, should have gotten help. I even contemplated giving her jail time as part of probation, but it sends the wrong message to Ms. Linn and to the community.”