More details are emerging about Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris and his botched adoption of two young girls.
Last week, we learned that Harris and his wife Marsha gave the siblings, four and six years old, away (the euphemism used was “rehomed”) to another couple, Eric and Stacey Francis. Eric Francis promptly raped the six-year-old and is now serving a 40-year prison term.
But what possessed State Representative Harris, who is also the owner of a Christian preschool, to get rid of the girls after they’d spent just 14 months with him and his family?
It’s not what possessed him; it’s what possessed them, we learn via a followup investigative piece in Arkansas Times. As in, demons. Demons so bad, an exorcist had to be called in.
No doubt, the children were challenging to raise, having come from a broken home where meth was present, and where the oldest sister had been sexually assaulted by her father. The Arkansas Times describes their early years as “suffering through a staggering sequence of chaos and abuse.” Psychological damage is understandable and likely in such cases, as is acting out. But apparently, the Harrises experienced something way beyond that. One of the troubled girls crushed a family pet to death, a guinea pig, Harris claims.
And so it began.
Multiple sources who interacted with the family confirmed [the] account that the Harrises believed the children were possessed, and another source close to the family said that Marsha Harris spoke openly about the supposed demonic possession.
The Harrises deny those claims. Their attorney, Jennifer Wells, said in a statement: “Exorcisms and telepathy are not part of the Harrises’ religious practice. They followed the techniques in a book called ‘When Love Is Not Enough, a Parent’s Guide to Reactive Attachment Disorder’ by Nancy Thomas, who is a recognized expert on therapeutic parenting techniques.”
That’s not what other in-the-know sources say.
According to [baby sitter Chelsey] Goldsborough, the two girls were kept in separate rooms that were outfitted with locks, alarms and video cameras. They were not allowed to be around each other because of the Harrises’ belief in demonic possession and telepathy, she said.
It seems that the girls’ “telepathic” communications weren’t strong enough to penetrate walls.
While Annie [the younger girl] would be allowed to roam the house and interact with other family members, Mary [the older sibling — both names are pseudonyms] was often confined to her room, Goldsborough said. “We couldn’t ever take [Mary] out. I’d watch her from a camera. I think it’s crazy. They were adopted, so they’re going to want TLC.”
But what they got was (wait for it) an exorcism.
Goldsborough said the “exorcism” was performed by specialists from Alabama who came to the house to orchestrate the event. Other sources confirmed to the Times that Marsha Harris told them at least one “exorcism” was performed on the girls.
Goldsborough said the Harrises showed her “a picture of [Mary] where they’re like, ‘You can see the demon rising from her back,’ and it just looked like a little 6-year-old to me.”… The separate source close to the Harrises reported seeing a video that Marsha Harris said showed a demon interacting with one of the girls. The source said demons were an “obsession” with Marsha Harris.
“They consider it to be spiritual warfare,” the other source said. “I’m a Christian, and I have these beliefs, but this was completely beyond anything I’ve ever seen or heard about.”…
When asked whether either of the girls displayed any signs of violence, Goldsborough said, “Yeah — they’d throw a fit sometimes if I made them eat their broccoli. They were like any other kid I watched.”
The two siblings are now on their fourth set of parents in two and a half years. Their current family has chosen to remain anonymous, but the parents sent an e-mail to the Arkansas Times protesting what they see as Harris’ attempted character assassination of their new daughters. The message said, in part,
“We are aware of the very public conversation going on about events pertaining to our daughters. We are deeply grieved over Justin Harris’ accusations toward our daughters in order to self-protect; it is inexcusable. … These girls are happy, healthy children who have gone through things no child should ever have to endure. Since they have been home with us, they have adjusted beautifully and are thriving in our home with unconditional love and patience. We are truly amazed at our daughters’ ability to love and bond with us, given all they have experienced.”
Arkansas Times reporter Benjamin Hardy, who, thanks to a lot of hard digging and solid reporting, knows more about the story than any other journalist, concludes that
Harris’ account of the girls as violent and threatening holds little water.
Some good should come from all this heartbreak: the Arkansas legislature will finally crack down on “rehoming.”
Three separate bills have now been filed in the legislature to prohibit rehoming, and the governor is supporting such legislation. Harris has said that he will support rehoming legislation as well, although if such a law had existed when he sent his daughters to live with Eric and Stacey Francis in October 2013, he would have been committing a felony.
A Change.org petition calling for Harris’ resignation has almost 6,400 signatures at this writing.