The story of Arkansas state Rep. Justin Harris (R) — whose family adopted a pair of girls then “re-homed” them to another household where one of the girls was raped — has taken a bizarre turn with allegations that the Harris family gave the girls up because they believed the children could communicate telepathically and were possessed by demons.
The Arkansas Times reported on Wednesday that sources close to the family dispute many of the assertions Harris and his wife Marsha made last Friday at a press conference at the Arkansas state capitol.
The Harrises said they were never made aware that the girls were violent or that they posed a risk to a household with other children. Rep. Harris claimed that the family received no aid from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and that when they attempted to make the agency aware of issues with the girls, they threatened to charge him with child abandonment.
A bevy of witnesses — including, the Times said, “two foster families who cared for the girls prior to the Harris adoption, the girls’ biological mother, a former DHS employee familiar with the proceedings and a former babysitter at the Harrises’ West Fork home” — dispute virtually every word of the Harrises’ account of the adoption and subsequent “re-homing” and rape.
Babysitter Chelsey Goldsborough told the Times that when she cared for the children in the home, she was alarmed at how the family treated the girls, who initially arrived in the home with an older sister. The Times, for the sake of clarity, gave the girls false names.
The eldest, Jeannette, was 6 years old when the girls arrived in the Harris home in the fall of 2012. The middle sister Mary was 4 and Annie, the youngest, about 2 years old.
Jeannette was the first of the girls to be cast out of the Harris home. Rep. Harris says that she posed a threat to the three biological sons the Harrises already had. The oldest girl was sent for treatment at a state hospital while Mary and Annie remained with the family.
Goldsborough told the Times that Mary was mostly confined to her room and monitored by video camera. Marsha Harris told the babysitter that the girls were demonically possessed and that they had to be kept separate because they could communicate telepathically. One of the girls crushed the family’s guinea pig to death, Marsha Harris claimed, and the family were so frightened of the children that they summoned an exorcist from Alabama to perform a casting-out of the girls’ demons.
“The first night I was over there, I just broke down and cried with this little girl because I just felt so bad for her,” said Goldsborough. The Harrises used an elaborate system of locks, video cameras and alarms to separate the girls because they believed they would kill their entire family.
Another source close to the family corroborated this account to the Times, saying that Marsha Harris regularly spoke of the demons she believed were living inside the adopted girls.
“They consider it to be spiritual warfare,” the anonymous source said. “I’m a Christian, and I have these beliefs, but this was completely beyond anything I’ve ever seen or heard about.”
The family locked Mary away without any books, toys or colorful clothes, Goldsborough said, “because a demon told [Mary] not to share…Demons told her to not appreciate [her toys] and all that, so they took away all the toys and her colored clothes.”
The Harrises’ attorney Jennifer Wells insisted there is no truth to the allegations against her clients. “Exorcisms and telepathy are not part of the Harrises’ religious practice,” Wells said. “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.”
Other foster families who worked with the girls say that the middle girl was never violent and that the Harrises were warned multiple times that their family would not be a good fit for children from such a traumatic background, which included neglect, violent abuse and sexual molestation.
However, the Harrises relied on their friend Cecile Blucker — a DHS official — to push the adoption through in spite of the warnings and serious misgivings on the part of state officials.
The family’s response to the upset the children brought into their home, however, was not to go back to DHS and attempt to get assistance, but instead to rely on their Christian faith until things in the home finally got so bad that they moved the girls into the home of Eric and Stacey Francis. It was there that Mary was raped by Eric, a serial predator who had molested other children and who is now serving a 40-year prison sentence.