“I don’t want to talk about bad guy,” the 5-year-old told Cook Children’s Hospital psychologist Phillip Breedlove.
Her adoptive parents, John and Georgiana Tufts of Denton, told one of her peer’s parents that she came from an abusive family in Poland. But in late August, police in Denton were interviewing her
as part of a child abuse investigation.
Nearly three weeks would pass before the adopted child trusted the licensed therapist enough to share her story of what happened the night John Tufts, 45, placed her in the shower. “Daddy is mean,” she told Breedlove. “He put Elsa in my booty and I cried.”
Elsa is a doll, the heroine from the Disney movie Frozen. Law enforcement authorities reported in an Oct. 6 arrest affidavit that the girl will require several surgeries and a colostomy bag to correct the injuries she received.
Tufts was arrested on Oct. 10 for injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and taken to Denton County Jail where he remains on a $400,000 bond. His wife, Georgiana, was charged with serious bodily injury to a child by omission but later posted the $100,000 bond. Both charges are first degree felonies and carry a punishment of five years to life in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Georgiana Tufts told the Denton Record-Chronicle that she couldn’t discuss the case “because it’s current right now.” She also didn’t respond to requests from the Observer for comment.
Marissa Gonzales, the media specialist for Child Protective Services, told the Observer that the judge had issued a gag order related to this case. It's unclear where the adopted child or the Tufts' biological child, who is 6 years old, have been taken.
The gruesome allegations come as Texas' Child Protective Services falls under scrutiny. A report by the Austin American-Statesman this month found that "more than 14,000 kids across the state had not been seen by child abuse investigators between 24 and 72 hours after a report of abuse, the state-mandated timeframe in which caseworkers must see children." In the Dallas area, the average caseworker now lasts about six months. At that rate of turnover, it's a challenge just to staff the agency with warm bodies, the Observer wrote in May.
But CPS is only one part of the effort to stem child abuse. Cases like the one in Denton show how the police and hospital officials are the agencies that detect and investigate extreme instances of abuse.
The 5-year-old adopted child had been only living in America for a year before her injuries tipped hospital authorities to the suspected child abuse. The Tufts had obtained custody of her on July 4, 2015, moved her into their two-story brick home on Blue Sky Lane and enrolled her in a local elementary school in Denton.
She was a quiet child who took some time to adjust to her new environment. But by the end of her pre-K school year, she began to open up and make friends, one of her peer’s parent recalls.
"They were happy to give her a better place here," said the parent of one of her peers, who wishes to remain anonymous.
According to police records, the child abuse occurred on Aug. 9. John Tufts told Denton police that he was home alone with his adopted daughter and his biological daughter. He claimed he placed his adopted daughter in the guest bathroom to take a shower and took his biological daughter to the master bathroom to take a shower.
“John Tufts said he returned to check on [his adopted daughter] and found she had stuck a Barbie doll inside her vagina or anus,” police reported in the affidavit for an arrest warrant.
Tufts claimed that he asked her what she was doing, and his adoptive daughter dropped the Elsa doll and started flailing around in the bathtub. He noticed blood droplets in the tub and observed the lower portion of the dolls legs were covered in blood.
Instead of taking her to the hospital, he pulled out his cell phone, took pictures and sent them to his wife and his mother, asking them what he should do. (The report does not state their responses.) Tufts reported that he used a towel to stop the bleeding.
When his wife arrived home from work later that evening, she did not check on her adopted daughter because she was sleeping. In fact, the Tufts sought no medical treatment until two days after the incident.
Georgiana Tufts told Denton police that the day after the injury, she noticed blood and discharge coming from the girl, so she placed a maxi pad in the child’s panties to absorb the blood. She then made an appointment with Cook Children’s Pediatrics in Denton for the following day.
When the pediatrician examined the adopted child, he told the adoptive mother that her child had suffered a “very serious injury” and needed a higher level of care. She was immediately transported to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth for evaluation.
At the Children’s Hospital, Georgiana Tufts told medical staff that her adopted daughter had woken up later that night after the suspected abuse occurred and complained about her pain. Those complaints continued the following day. Tufts simply gave her a Tylenol.
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Both Tufts reported that their adopted daughter “masturbates all the time as a soothing mechanism” and also harms herself by banging her head against the wall and throwing herself backwards on the stairs.
The medical staff told Denton police that the adoptive child’s injuries were consistent with physical and possible sexual abuse. One of the doctors found that the “self-inflicted injury from masturbation with a Barbie doll is inconsistent with the surgical findings of significant trauma,” according to the arrest affidavit.
The doctor further stated it would take a significant amount of force to cause the type of trauma found to the adopted child’s vaginal and anal area.
Breedlove met with the adopted child and later told police that during their conversation, “she stated her daddy was a bad boy, and she did not like him; but she loves him.” She also told him that “her daddy pulled her down too hard, and she is mad at him.”