“She Never Said I Was the Monster”: Denton Husband Accused of Child Abuse Claims Innocence

John Tufts says he’s innocent of the horrific child abuse crime that landed him in the Denton County Jail in October 2016. He spoke to the Dallas Observer while standing in front of the courthouse Monday morning, where he was to appear in Judge Brody Shanklin’s 211th District Court.

Tufts’ 5-year-old adopted daughter, who came from Poland, claimed a bad guy “hurt my vagina and booty and they make it red” but refused to identify him, according to Tufts’ arrest warrant affidavit.

Instead, she simply told the therapist her attacker was a monster and “I don’t want to talk about the bad guy.”

“She never said I was the monster,” Tufts says. “She said the guy in Poland did it to her.”

The Child Advocacy Resources and Evaluation Team at Cook Children’s Hospital investigated and determined that the child had been abused in the United States and was at risk for more abuse if she returned to home. Police charged Tufts with injury to a child — serious bodily injury, a second-degree felony, claiming in the affidavit that he “intentionally and knowingly caused injury to [the child] by inserting a Barbie doll into her vaginal and anal area.” Tufts’ wife, Georgiana, who is now estranged, was also charged with the felony crime.

Court records show that both John and Georgiana Tufts are in the process of plea bargaining. But John Tufts says he hasn’t accepted a deal yet. “I didn’t do anything,” he says.

Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for the Denton County District Attorney's Office, says the department hasn't offered a plea bargain and that John Tufts' case is going to trial.

The Tufts adopted their daughter July 4, 2015. She came to the States from Poland with her 2-year-old sister, but the family that had planned to adopt her decided not to.

Denton police said it only took a few days for European Adoption Consultants to place the child with the Tufts because John Tufts’ mother, Debra Parris, worked as the adoption agency's Africa director. Parris also had legal problems after it was revealed in lawsuits that she and European Adoption Consultants founder Margaret Cole had failed to ensure that Ugandan children they were placing with U.S. couples were really orphans, according to WEWS-TV (News 5) in Cleveland.

The State Department debarred the adoption agency in December for a number of violations, including disclosing fees “to clients that were not the actual fees charged to clients when they were in a foreign country,” offering "consideration to birth parents to induce them to release their children for adoption” and failing "to use reasonable efforts to obtain accurate information about children in multiple countries,” according to the State Department document. In June, the Ohio Attorney General's Office announced it was seeking to dissolve the agency and ban it from doing business in the state.

John Tufts says the agency has been shut down and that he didn’t know about the abuse he says the child experienced in Poland. “We thought we were helping her,” he says.

The incident in question occurred in August 2016, when John Tufts' wife was working. He was home alone with his adopted daughter and his biological daughter, who was also 5, preparing to bathe them. He put his adopted daughter in the tub in the guest bathroom and took his biological daughter to the master bathroom.

He later told police that his adopted daughter had a history of masturbation and self-harm and that the family was seeking professional counseling assistance, but the girl hadn’t started counseling yet.

After he took his biological daughter to the master bathroom, he says, he returned to guest bathroom and found his adopted daughter with the Barbie stuck inside her vagina. He told police that he asked her what she was doing, and she dropped the doll and immediately started flailing around in the bathtub.

“We thought we were helping her.” – John Tufts, who is accused of abusing his adopted daughter

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He noticed droplets of blood in the bathtub, took a picture of the doll’s legs with his cellphone, sent it to his wife and mother, and asked what he should do. He then put a towel over the girl’s private area and reported that the bleeding seemed to have stopped.

When Georgiana Tufts returned home from work, she did not check on their adopted daughter because the girl was sleeping. In fact, the couple sought no medical treatment at the time of the injury. The next day, Georgiana Tufts noticed blood and discharge coming from her adopted daughter’s vagina. So she grabbed a maxi pad and placed it in the girl’s panties to absorb the blood.

Two days later, Georgiana Tufts took her adopted daughter to Cook Children’s Pediatrics in Denton, and medical staff determined that “she had a very serious injury and needed higher level of care,” according to John Tufts' arrest warrant affidavit.

The girl was immediately taken to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, where staff determined that she had been physically and possibly sexually abused.

The Tufts told hospital staff that their daughter was committing self harm and masturbating all the time “as a soothing mechanism.” They also reported that she would bang her head on the wall and throw herself backward on the stairs, but they never saw the child masturbating.

But doctors later reported to police: “It would have taken a significant amount of force to cause the type of trauma found to her vaginal and anal area.”

When Denton police interviewed John Tufts, he told them that he didn’t seek medical attention immediately because the bleeding had stopped and he never saw the injury. Tufts claimed that he asked the girl if her injury hurt, and she told him no.

A licensed therapist later interviewed the Tufts’ adopted daughter, who said "a monster" hurt her but that she didn’t want to discuss it. It wasn’t until a therapy session in late September 2016 when she spontaneously said, “Daddy is mean. He put Elsa in my booty and I cried.”

John Tufts was arrested in early October 2016. His bond was set at $400,000 but later reduced to $150,000. He has faced a myriad of problems since his arrest, from losing his job to facing death threats. Tufts and his wife also separated.

“We don’t talk anymore because the cops want her to say that I’m the boogeyman to get our daughter back,” he says.

"I think he's getting a raw deal." – James Angelino, John Tufts’ attorney

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John Tufts’ attorney, James Angelino, couldn’t be reached for comment but previously told the Dallas Observer that he was very annoyed that Denton police had a press conference about his client’s case before the grand jury indicted him in May.

“I think he’s gotten a raw deal,” he says.

But the raw deal seems to have been dealt to the child. Denton police reported that her injuries required surgery and will require more surgeries in the future. She’s now using a colostomy bag.

“This is a little bit higher up the ladder when it comes to controlling emotions,” Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer told local news outlets at the time of John Tufts’ arrest.

Standing outside the courthouse, John Tufts repeatedly claims his innocence. His next court appearance takes place in early November, and his estranged wife’s next appearance is in October. Beck, the first assistant district attorney, says the DA's office will set and announce John Tufts' trail date at his next hearing and that the trial might take place in November.

But John Tufts doesn’t seem sure what the hearings are for. “CPS already agreed that we throw it out, and the judge already said that they didn’t have nothing and couldn’t prove it,” he says.
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.