John Tufts towers over everyone else in the courtroom at his Monday morning arraignment at the Denton County Courthouse. His adopted 6-year-old Polish daughter told police he is a “bad guy” and “mean.” The crime that the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound man stands accused of involves traumatic child physical and sexual abuse that strains the imagination.
It’s a full house inside Judge Brody Shanklin’s courtroom, but no one gathered in the wooden pews pays much attention to Tufts as he makes his way toward the front to check in. He’s facing a felony charge of serious bodily injury to a child after, as Denton police investigators said in his 2016 arrest warrant, he put his adopted child in a cage and sexually assaulted her with a Disney doll.
“Daddy is mean. He put Elsa in my booty and I cried,” police said the child told them.
Tufts and his wife, Georgiana, who was also arrested, have denied all wrongdoing.
The couple took their adopted daughter, then 5, to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth on Aug. 11, 2016. The ER staff discovered that she had a laceration of the hymen through her pelvic diaphragm to the anus with active bleeding. The injuries required surgery and led to the use of a colostomy bag. The staff also found bruising across the girl's lower body, as well as to the head, back and hips.
The couple had adopted their daughter July 4, 2015, but they weren’t the child’s first adoptive parents. She and her 2-year-old sister had been adopted and brought to the United States from Poland earlier in 2015. The adoption process, however, didn’t work out.
Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer told News 5 (WEWS-TV) in Cleveland that the first adoptive parents decided to keep the younger sister and gave the older one back to the adoption agency, European Adoption Consultants, where John Tufts’ mother, Debra Parris, worked as the Africa director.
Denton police said it took only days for Parris to place the child in her son’s care and nearly a year for him to be arrested for child abuse.
Earlier this year, the FBI raided the European Adoption Consultants headquarters in Strongsville, Ohio, in relation to accusations that include soliciting bribes, falsifying documents and adopting trafficked children.
James Angelino, John Tufts' attorney, told the Dallas Observer that he was very annoyed that Denton police had a press conference to discuss his client’s case before the grand jury indicted him in May. He also said his client has received death threats and lost his job once word began to spread about the child abuse. He wasn’t sure if the judge’s gag order is still in effect and only wanted to be quoted saying, “I think he’s gotten a raw deal.”
John Tufts said the incident occurred at 7 p.m. Aug. 9, 2016, two days before the couple took their 5-year-old adopted daughter to the hospital. He said he had placed her in the bathtub in the guest bathroom to take a shower. Then, he said, he left the bathroom to check on his 5-year-old biological daughter, who was taking a shower in the master bathroom.
When he returned, John Tufts said, he found his adopted daughter had “stuck a Barbie doll inside her vagina or anus,” according to his arrest warrant affidavit. He noticed blood droplets in the tub and blood covering the doll’s lower legs, took a picture with his cellphone, and sent it to his wife and mother asking what he should do.
John Tufts used a towel to stop the blood and told investigators that this helped the bleeding to subside. When his wife came home from work later that night, she told investigators, she didn’t check on their adopted daughter because she was sleeping.
The couple sought no medical treatment for the child at the time of the injury.
A day later, the girl began to complain about pain, so Georgiana Tufts gave her a Tylenol. When she noticed blood discharging from her adopted daughter’s private area, she placed a menstrual pad in the girl’s panties to absorb the blood. She then contacted Cook Children’s Pediatrics in Denton and scheduled an appointment for the next day.
At the pediatric office, the doctor told the couple that their adopted daughter had a very serious injury and needed a higher level of care. She was immediately sent to the hospital in Fort Worth.
There, the John and Georgiana Tufts made a litany of claims regarding their adopted daughter, including that she “masturbates all the time as a soothing mechanism" and that she "also self-harms.” They also claimed they had never observed these behaviors, just the aftermath.
John Tufts claimed he watched his adopted daughter bang her head on the wall, and his wife claimed she saw her adopted daughter throw herself backwards on the stairs.
The Cook Children's Medical Center surgeon told investigators that the couple's claims don’t match the hospital's findings of significant trauma. Doctors “stated it would have taken a significant amount of force to cause the type of trauma found to her vaginal and anal area,” the investigator wrote in the arrest warrant affidavit.
Denton police investigators spoke with Cook Children’s Medical Center psychologist Phillip Breedlove, who claimed that the couple's adopted daughter told him that she did not like her father because her daddy “pulled down too hard, and she is mad at him and did not like him, but she loves him.”
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John Tufts denied being involved in any of his adoptive daughter's injuries when investigators interviewed him and reaffirmed what he had already said: that her injuries were self inflicted. He was arrested in early October 2016, but his bond was later reduced from $400,000 to $150,000.
Georgiana Tufts was arrested for injury to a child by omission in early October 2016 because she waited two days to seek proper medical treatment. She was also arraigned on Monday morning.
“This is a little bit higher up the ladder when it comes to controlling our emotions,” Kizer, the Denton police spokesman, told local news outlets at the time of John Tufts’ arrest.
The Tufts were both indicted by the grand jury May 1, and will be making their next court appearance in early July.