Iowa Couple Arrested After Leaving Adopted Ghanaian Children Malnourished, Locked In Plastic-Lined Rooms

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Iowa Couple Charged
Kelly and Kenneth Fry, 40 and 42, are accused of feeding their adopted children only oatmeal and forcing them to use a bucket as a toilet. (Image courtesy of the Des Moines Register)

An Iowa couple was arrested and charged last month after authorities say they neglected two of their children, who they adopted from Ghana.

Kenny and Kelly Fry have been charged with one count of neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, child endangerment and child endangerment causing bodily injury, the Des Moines Register reported. The couple has seven children in total.

An 8-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy who were removed from home earlier this year told police they were remanded to their bedrooms for several hours a day and forced to use a plastic bucket as a toilet. If they came out of their rooms, the children said an alarm would sound and they’d be disciplined with physical exercise, a criminal complaint stated.

One of the children said alarms were added to their doors after they snuck out to steal food. The girl told investigators they weren’t being fed enough. When they were fed, the children said they were forced to eat oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner while their siblings did not have food restrictions.

Authorities began investigating the Frys in January after a state Dept. of Human Services caseworker investigating complaints of child neglect at the home contacted police, the newspaper reported. The day prior, a neighbor reported seeing two children knocking on the door of the home for 45 minutes, begging to be let it.

The two children were eventually placed with relatives, after which they underwent a physical examination by a nurse who determined they both were neglected and malnourished.

Authorities said the girl, who was 50 pounds and stood 46 inches tall, “had a distention of her abdomen that was consistent with malnutrition.” She gained about five pounds but hadn’t grown in height from the year before. She also had small wounds on her body that took longer than usual to heal. Meanwhile, the boy, who weighed 69 pounds and stood 53 inches tall, had also leveled off on the growth chart, likely due to nutritional neglect.

During their investigation, authorities found that the other children in the home had “typical and age appropriate childhood bedrooms.” The Ghanaian children, however, shared a bedroom that was subdivided by wood. The room was also lined with plastic and contained a small plastic mat, a blanket and a single shelf on the wall. No other furnishings or personal belongings were inside the room, however.

Kelly Fry, 40, told investigators she and her husband constructed the room earlier this year after the children began misbehaving and would urinate and defecate in their original bedrooms. She claimed the children chose to use the plastic buckets instead of the home’s bathrooms.

Since being removed from the home, investigators said the children haven’t exhibited any of the behaviors described by the Frys. One of the children even gained eight pounds in three weeks after moving in with relatives.

The couple was held at the Clarke County Jail but was released after posting $17,000 bail. Their preliminary hearing took place July 3.

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