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“Tell Momma Why You Cry”
The “K” Family
This case is a true story and the material is from the listed News source. For the purpose of this
assignment some of the facts are omitted including the final disposition. The conclusion will be
shared ivith you after you complete the case assessment assignments.
Most of the houses in this quiet. middle-class Richardson neighborhood look alike – wide, one-story, brick homes with small, manicured front lawns. The home of Sam and Kathy Krasniqi has one distinguishing feature: rain or shine, several pairs of men’s and women’s shoes can be found lined up on the porch next to a mat that says, “Friends Are Always Welcome.” These shoes are just one symbol of the Krasniqi’s faith. Muslims, they explain, never wear shoes inside a mosque or in their homes because both are holy places that must be kept scrupulously clean or their prayers will be invalidated. This is also why the Kranniqis does not allow pork to be cooked or eaten in their house.
Immigrants from an Albanian region of what was once Yugoslavia, Kathy and Sam Krasniqi sit barefoot in the back den of their darkened, four-bedroom house. Tears run down their faces as they watch grainy videotapes of their two children, the only tangible connection the couple still has to their 10-year-old daughter, Lima, and I4-year-old son. Tim.
For the past five years, Tim and Lima have lived together in a series of foster care placements around the state, after the children were removed from their custory. This harsh and irreversible punishment came at the end of a strange case that began when several witnesses reported seeing Krasniqi fondle his daughter during a karate tournament in a Plano high school gymnasium in which his son was competing.
Several years after the family court ruling, Krasniqi finally had his day in criminal court. Collin County Judge Nathan White acquitted him of the charge of indecency with a child primarily on the strength of testimony from Massachusetts anthropologist Barbara Halpern. one of the country’s foremost authorities on the peasant culture of the Balkans.
Halpern explained that Sam Krasniqi’s actions were done not with sexual intent, but rather with playful affection in keeping with his culture, which cherishes children and showers them with physical affection. But it was an empty victory for the Krasniqis, whose children, were kept from them. “If I am danger, why am I not punished? Why am I not in prison? But my children are?” a bewildered Sam Krasniqi asks as he wipes tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. The Krasniqis believe their children are indeed prisoners – prisoners of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.
The state agency (known as the Department of Human Services (DHS) when the case began) is charged with protecting children’s best interests, but the Krasniqis say it unfairly took their children away. Child Protective Services (CPS). placed the terrified Krasniqi children, who had
never even been left with a baby-sitter before, in a series of group homes and foster families, none of whom ever gave the slightest consideration to the children’s ethnic and religious heritage.
Today, Tim and Lima are being raised by a Christian family. They are being taught to accept Jesus Christ as their savior and eat pork. They are destined to forget they ever had another family, another faith and another language.
The videotapes that Sam and Kathy Krasniqi watch show a mother’s valiant attempts to stay connected to her children, to keep them tied to their family of origin, to their culture and to their religion. The videotapes were taken during visits Kathy was allowed to make with her children
every two months in an office, guarded by a police officer, inside the Texas Department of Human Services building on Maple Avenue in Dallas.
State District Court Judge Hal Gaither made the rare decision to allow the visits ten months after the incident at the karate tournament. The visits lasted for two years. In the videotaped visits, Kathy brings Tim and Lima the ethnic foods – petla and peta – she used to make them at home. In addition to toys and games and clothes, Kathy also brings pizza from one of the several Brother’s Pizza Restaurants the Krasniqi family owned in Dallas – before mounting legal expenses forced them to sell their once-thriving business. She brings them large stacks of pictures of family members and friends. “Do you look at the pictures, Lima, when you miss mommy?” Kathy asks, Lima nods, and then curls into her lap while Kathy tells her and Tim the stories of the day they were each born. Each visit ends with Tim and Lima looking into the camera and saying good-bye to their father, who they call “babi,” Albanian for daddy. And before Kathy leaves, they beg to know the date of the next visit.
But as the years have stretched on, later tapes record how familial bonds and memories fray. In tapes taken a year and a-half ago, the children strain to remember Albanian – the only language they ever spoke in their home. They forget the names of cousins and even the Albanian first names of their mother and father: Sadri and Sabhete. The tapes also capture the sadness and confusion the children feel being caught between two cultures.
During one visit, the children show up wearing crosses. They confess to Kathy that their foster parents take them to church three times a week, where they sing and pray to Jesus. At a following visit, after a psychologist appointed by the court to supervise the visits complains to DHS, the crosses are gone from the children’s necks, yet Tim is wearing a T-shirt that proclaims “Jesus is in Control.” As Kathy tries to talk to her children about their Muslim faith, explaining the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast every day until sundown, Lima suddenly breaks into sobs. “Don’t cry, Lima,” Kathy says, stroking her daughter’s long silky black hair. “Tell mama why you cry?” Slowly Lima confesses that in her foster parents’ home she has eaten pepperoni, which contains pork. Choking back the tears, she says she’s afraid her mother will be angry. “Don’t worry,” Kathy reassures her. “Do you know how much mama loves you?” Lima nods her head yes. “A lot,” she says. It has been a year and a-half since Kathy last saw her children. The Krasniqis have learned that one of their greatest fears has been realized – their children have been converted to Christianity.
From the very beginning, the Krasniqis pleaded with workers in the child welfare system to be sensitive to their children’s Muslim identity. But even though the agency professes to value heritage, little was done in this regard. When the State first put Tim and Lima in protective custody they were placed in the Buckner Baptist Children’s Home in East Dallas, where they were taken to revival meetings. When Kathy and Krasniqi visited during that time, their children asked them if they had accepted Jesus Chris as their savior. When the Krasniqis complained to the children’s caseworker, their attendance at the ongoing revival was “limited somewhat,” according
to DHS records.
Jan DeLipsey, the psychologist who supervised Kathy Krasniqi’s visits with her children, wrote to the court and described her personal distress at the system’s disregard for the children’s heritage and religion. According to an affidavit she filed with the family court, she asked the children’s caseworker – the third they had had in as many years – whether he had investigated placing the children with Kathy Krasniqi’s brother in New York, who knew the children and had expressed interest in adopting them. “I have not, and would never, investigate relative placement in this case, because these people always stay together,” was the caseworker’s reply.
In late October, the Krasniqis and several members of the Islamic Association filed a motion on behalf of the Krasniqi children, asking the court to replace the children’s guardian ad litem with Khalid Hamideh, a Dallas lawyer who represents the Islamic Association of North Texas and has served many times as a guardian ad litem to children of Muslim faith. “We hope it is not too late to bring these children back to the religion and culture and heritage of their forefathers,” says Hamideh. ”
Sadri Krasniqi was born 56 years ago in Yugoslavia, an ethnic mosaic, composed of six republics that were gerrymandered into a country at the negotiating table of Versailles after World War I. The Krasniqi clan lived in an autonomous Albanian region within the Serbian republic, called Kosovo. Ethnic and religious ties run deep in this part of the world, and so do centuries-old animosities, which roiled into bloody warfare several years ago, catapulting this little known region into front-page news. But even before ethnic bloodshed focused the worlds attention on the region, anthropologists had found it a fascinating area of study, particularly the Krasniqis’ Kosovo. Kosovo, more than any other part of the Balkans, clings to a value system with ancient roots, where marriages are arranged, several generations often live under one roof and unwritten medieval codes prevail. The concept of honor and shame are very strong in this subculture. Vendettas and blood feuds are an integral part of this world. In the village, men’s and women’s lives are lived in separate social spheres and certain taboos prevail. A woman, for instance, would never kiss her husband in front of her father.
Sam Krasniqi lived his childhood in a village near Pec, venturing out only after high school to attend his country’s equivalent of a trade school. Good jobs were scarce in Kosovo, a particularly depressed region of Yugoslavia, where industrial development came slowly. For several years Krasniqi was a bureaucrat in the communist government, investigating worker’s compensation claims. He spent the next ten years as a police officer in his village, where his brother served as chief of police. As is common in his native region, Krasniqi had to leave if he could ever hope to support a family.
At the age of 30, Krasniqi arrived in Chicago. He worked 18 hours a day at two jobs. He was a punch press operator at Zenith radio and was chief superintendent of a high-rise condominium. After leaving Zenith, he worked for a janitorial firm. In 1979, when he saved enough money to start his own business, he returned to Yugoslavia, where his parents had chosen a bride for him. All he knew about Sabhete Goga – 15 years his junior – was that she was from a different village in Yugoslavia and that her parents made sure she was from a good family and a good background. As is the custom, Sabhete. or Kathy, was still living at home, though she was in her mid 20’s. Her mother had died when she was eight and she looked after her father. Krasniqi and Kathy had only a few months to get to know each other before they married and returned to Chicago.
When the Krasniqi’s first child was born they named him Urtim and in a concession to their new culture, called him Tim. Shortly after, the Krasniqis moved to Dallas and Krasniqi went into the pizza business. Two years later Lima was born and as their family grew, so did their prosperity. In several years, Krasniqi would own as many as five Brother’s Pizza restaurants from Mesquite to Arlington, from the West End to a North Dallas location near Valley View Mall – the one at which he and his wife worked.
Friends and business associates of Krasniqi’s describe him as a devoted father and a hard¬working businessman, at times stubborn and headstrong, but trustworthy. “If all my clients were like him, 1 wouldn’t have any banking problems”, Mito Nliteff, a Fort Worth lawyer and banker of
Albanian descent testified on Krasniqi’s behalf in the family court trial. Miteffs bank had lent Krasniqi money on several occasions to finance his businesses and he never missed a loan payment, Miteff said. The Krasniqis owned a Mercedes Benz and a four-bedroom house on Keller
Springs Road. Even as they plunged into the economic system, the Krasniqis cleaved to their ethnic heritage. They spoke Albanian in their home and with their children and socialized only with other Yugoslays. Their grasp of the English language was poor, limited to what they needed
to run their pizza parlors. Their lives revolved around the children, which was very much in keeping with their village backgrounds. Kathy remained at home with Tim and Lima until they were ready for kindergarten. “I never knew what this mean – baby-sitter.” she says, shaking her head. On Saturdays, when Kathy had to work in the restaurant, she took Tim and Lima with her.
Confronted with a new culture. Krasniqi sought stability in his traditional code of honor. A
Garland arson investigator trying to get to the bottom of a series of arson-for-profits in the Dallas/Fort Worth area allegedly done by several Yugoslays came to Krasniqi. Krasniqi, a cop fur a decade in his village, knew several of the men and volunteered all the information he had about the crimes and risked retaliation by testifying for the prosecution in at least one trial. Krasniqi, according to his lawyer, also provided information to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and
Firearms about a Yugoslav ring of gun and drug traffickers, who were suspected of running weapons back to Yugoslavia.
On one Saturday morning, Tim Krasniqi begged his father to attend his karate tournament. In the two years that the 9-year-old had been taking karate lessons, his father never had seen him compete. Tournaments were always held on Saturday, Krasniqi’s busiest work day. This time, Krasniqi gave in to his son’s request. Lima, 4 V: years old, changed into her prettiest dress – a red sailor dress – and put on plastic dress-up shoes. In Kosovo, when children are taken out in public, they are always dressed in their best. Krasniqi packed up his video camera and headed off with his son and daughter to Shepton High School in Plano.
The tournament started at 11:00 a.m. and Krasniqi and Lima sat in the front row, to be as close as possible to Tim when he competed. Sitting one row above them, a few feet to the right, was Mary Lou Taylor. a mother from Coppell, who was in the stands that day to watch her two children and husband compete in the tournament. Shortly after the tournament began, Taylor’s attention was drawn to the spectator in front of her. She watched as a 50-year-old man with thinning gray hair repeatedly rubbed the underwear-clad buttocks and bare legs of a little girl who was laid out across his lap. He also slipped his hand under the girl’s panties and caressed and squeezed her buttocks. “He lifted her to face him and rubbed her front chest under her little dress. He then put his hand inside her panties from the leg opening and squeezed her vagina,” Taylor wrote in a statement she gave police. Taylor called 911. A police dispatcher in training was sent to meet the woman, because she was in plain clothes. The dispatcher watched Krasniqi and Lima from across the gym and, according to her testimony, saw Krasniqi put his hands on Lima’s underwear. The dispatcher informed an undercover police officer who had arrived what she had seen and he sat behind Krasniqi and corroborated the dispatcher’s story. Two uniformed police officers placed Krasniqi under arrest and took him, Lima and Tim to the Plano police department, where the children were put in the protective custody of the Department of Human Services.
The authorities had the rarest commodity of all in child molestation cases – witnesses. From the outset of this case, it seemed police and welfare workers suspected the worst. Mike Johnson, the Plano police officer assigned to the case, would confide in state caseworkers that he thought Krasniqi might be into pornography. His reasons: Krasniqi had a video camera with him (the tape. it turned out, was of a Yugoslav birthday celebration at the pizza parlor) and that Krasniqi grinned when he was arrested. Detective Johnson said “the man seemed to get a charge out of everyone seeing him molest the child and then see him get arrested,” according to the notes of a Child Protective Services caseworker.
A Collin County child welfare worker named Lisa Black videotaped an interview with Lima and Tim. Sitting in a police department office, hugging a stuffed animal, Lima tells Black in the tape that her father has touched her on her “rushka (an Albanian pet name for genitalia), but never under her clothes. The tape of Tim’s interview could not be located, but according to Black’s notes, Tim had seen his father touch his sister on her private parts on several occasions. He stated his father tickles Lima on her private pans and she likes it. When questioned further, Tim revealed his father also touches him on his private parts at his house. Tim stated he doesn’t mind his father doing this, Charged with sexual abuse of a child, Krasniqi’s bond was set at 525,000. Krasniqi remained in jail over the weekend, while Kathy tried to make sense of what had happened. “If you live in Albania 1.000 years, you’d never hear such a thing, someone having sex with a child,’ says Kathy in a recent interview. “If I ever caught my husband doing such a thing with his fingers, putting them inside our daughter, he wouldn’t have those fingers anymore.”
On Monday afternoon, while Krasniqi remained in jail, two caseworkers from Dallas County Child Protective Services arrived unannounced at the Krasniqis’ home. According to her case notes, Meredith Wunderlich, the primal) person assigned to the case, was struck by several things upon entering Kathy’s home – how immaculate it was and that Tim was in his underwear at 4:30 in the afternoon and how Tim and Lima shared a bedroom, despite the house having four bedrooms. If she asked, Wunderlich – three years out of college with her B.A. in social work and no children of her own – would have learned that there are religious reasons for keeping a Muslim home so clean. Also, that Tim was about to change into his karate uniform and that Tim and Lima shared a bedroom, because, until very recently, their two cousins and uncle had lived with them.
Wunderlich, who did not return calls to the Observer, had to explain to Kathy what molestation meant. “If you mean something sexual like with me and my husband, you are wrong,” Kathy responded. “It is not a sexual thing and there is no harm to my children,” Kathy told Wunderlich. Kathy also apparently had no idea what the Department of Human Services was nor how they worked.
Wunderlich took Lima into her bedroom to interview her, “Tears welled up in her eyes because she was obviously nervous about what was about to be said,” according to Wunderlich’s notes. Lima did not want to talk about events at the karate tournament, although Wunderlich tried to prod her by reminding her “that was the day your father was arrested for doing some bad things to you.” Lima did tell Wunderlich that her father had touched her in her home on her breasts and vagina, which she pointed to with her finger. Asked whether she had seen her father touch her brother on his private parts, Lima said one time. The caseworker took Tim into the back den to question him. According to the caseworker’s affidavit, Tim told her his father had rubbed his private parts over his underwear on at least one occasion. “I tried over and over to explain to Kathy that there was no question in my mind that her children had been sexually abused,” Wunderlich wrote. Over the phone, Wunderlich and her supervisor decided the children should be placed in a foster care setting – some place where they would be well cared for, looked after and believed,’Wunderlich noted. “I told her it would not necessarily be a permanent placement.”
“One hour away from my children would be too long,” Kathy interjected. Fumbling for her keys and purse, Kathy demanded her children come with her. The children were crying and the caseworkers went over to them. Tim yelled out, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was wrong!” Kathy begged the caseworkers to leave. Then, holding onto her children, Kathy dashed out the back door to the garage and sped away. Kathy and the children returned an hour later to find the police at their home. Unfamiliar with Child Protective Service procedures, the police told the caseworkers they had to leave. “I told Kathy that this was not the end of my involvement and she
would be seeing me again,” Wunderlich wrote in her notes.
The following day, a Tuesday, Sam Krasniqi, whose lawyer had cautioned him against talking to police, agreed to talk with Wunderlich, who told Krasniqi she wanted to help his family. According to Wunderlich’s case notes, he admitted touching Lima and Tim, that it was acceptable in his country and it was just a big misunderstanding. “He denied it was sexual at all and said that I could kill him if he was lying and if it was sexually gratifying to him.” Krasniqi has since insisted that Wunderlich misconstrued what he was telling her. At the karate tournament. Krasniqi insists he was just playing a game with his daughter – touching the parts of her body and asking her to say their names.
“I tell Wunderlich, how can you love your children and not touch them?” Krasniqi explains, sitting in his home, surrounded by pictures of his children when they were younger. Nowhere in
Wunderlich’s case notes does not indicate that anyone in her department tried to research the Krasniqi’s culture. If they had, they might have learned what Barbara Halpern, the anthropologist
from Massachusetts. testified to in Krasniqi’s criminal trial. The Krasniqis come from “very physically demonstrative culture. Children are universally adored. Until they attain school age and venture beyond the household gates, they are the constant subjects of hugs, caresses and even
displays of affection.” Alarmed by her interview with Krasniqi, Wunderlich was even more determined to remove the from their home. She got a court order and, after talking with her attorney. Kathy surrendered them to DHS.
The children spent ten days in the home of foster parents – a terrifying experience. The children would later tell their parents and the caseworker that the foster mother brandished a knife and yelled at Tim because he got out of bed to get a glass of water. On August 23, the Krasniqi
family had a hearing in the Dallas County Courthouse as required by law. Wunderlich was represented by her supervisor. Carol Duncan. who recommended that the children be returned to their mother, because the children had been so emotionally stressed by the foster care placement. The court ordered the family into DHS-sponsored group treatment. Sam Krasniqi was barred temporarily from any contact with the children.
Throughout the fall, the Krasniqis diligently abided by the court order. Krasniqi rented an apartment and attended a sexual offender’s group treatment program run by Chester Grounds, a staff psychologist with DHS. Grounds said in court that Krasniqi originally admitted in group that he had sexually abused his children, including putting his finger in his daughter’s vagina, but that Krasniqi later recanted. “The justification he gave for changing his answer was he did not understand our language and the questions we were asking or the way in which we were asking the questions,” Grounds told the court. From the outset of the case, Wunderlich thought Krasniqi’s chances of being rehabilitated were slim. “In my opinion, it is not likely that we will be able to reunite Sadri with his family,” Wunderlich wrote in late August. “The abuse is too interwoven into his relationship with his children. I believe it will be a long time, if ever, before he can
successfully learn to relate in a non-sexual way with his children.”
Throughout the Fall, Kathy attended a women’s group on Tuesday nights (for mothers of abused children) and Tim and Lima attended a group for sexually abused children. Kathy told the group that touching children’s genitals is all right in her country, but that she realized it was not all
right in this country, according to the caseworker’s notes. In the children’s groups, both Tim and Lima said little. Tim told Wunderlich he didn’t like talking about everyone’s problems. “I tried to explain to him why this was so important, but he said his life wasn’t as bad as theirs (the other children),” according to Wunderlich’s notes. Both children told the group that they missed their father terribly. After the Tuesday night groups, the children asked Wunderlich if they could call their father. “They are always excited about updating their father on everything that’s going on with them,” wrote Wunderlich, who monitored phone calls. ‘Their spirits seem much higher during conversations with their dad then at other times.”
During the fall, the children also underwent physical examinations at Children’s Medical
center Reach Clinic, run by Dr. Paul Prescott, the leading local expert in examining children for
sexual abuse. “I am somewhat concerned that the children have not told us the full extent of their sexual abuse,” Wunderlich wrote in her case notes. “I had hoped that this exam might shed some light on this.” Tim was examined first. Prescott tried to comfort the child, who was crying.
Prescott asked Tim about his abuse and Tim replied. “No one has hurt me,” but said that his father had touched his private parts. Prescott found no physical evidence that Tim was sexually abused. Nor did he find any physical evidence of abuse during his examination of Lima, who met the doctor with ease.
As ordered by the court, the Krasniqi family had individual psychological evaluations with an independent therapist named Jan DeLipsey, who worked on a contract basis with OHS. DeLipsey reported that neither parent would benefit from group therapy because their poor English would prevent them from understanding much of the interaction. DeLipsey strongly recommended individual counseling.
In addition, she suggested that Kathy, whom she found to be emotionally, socially and financially dependent on her husband, also participate with her children in family therapy. DeLipsey cautioned that “those who participate in any legal proceedings involving Mrs. Krasniqi should take care to explain proceedings and have her repeat the explanation back in her own words to assure her understanding.”
DeLipsey’s words of caution would prove to be prophetic in coming months, but they were ignored by OHS. So were her recommendations that the family members would be best served in individual and family counseling. However, on the strength of DeLipsey’s evaluations, W’underlich approved visitations between Sam Krasniqi and his children to be supervised by herself. The first supervised visitation between Krasniqi and his children was scheduled for five and a-half months after his arrest.
Wunderlich arrived at the Krasniqi home on Keller Springs Road at 3:30 p.m. to find the house burned to the ground, the charred remains still smoldering. Kathy Krasniqi was standing in the middle of the street. disoriented. “There’s not even a spoon left,” she kept saying. She also lost the only picture she had of her deceased mother. The children walked over to Wunderlich, accompanied by their father. He held both children in his arms and wept. The caseworker then went to talk to the firemen, one of whom informed her the fire was arson caused by a bomb and timing device.
The Krasniqis and Wunderlich decided to go the family’s restaurant so the family could get something to eat and Kathy could figure out where she and her children could stay. On the way to the car, Krasniqi picked Lima up and twirled her around. “They looked like they were having the best time,” Wunderlich wrote, thinking of the fire. “It looked and felt out of place.” After three hours at the pizza parlor, the caseworker had to leave. After phoning her supervisor, she told Kathy that she and the children could remain there a little longer, but that Krasniqi was not to be alone with the children. She also gave her permission for Kathy and the children to go to the restaurant the next day to eat, Kathy says. Kathy and the children moved into Krasniqi’s apartment on Keller Springs and for a few nights, he slept in the restaurant, before leasing another apartment near his restaurant on Montfort.
On Saturday a woman from Kathy’s DHS therapy group, went to the Krasniqis’ restaurant with her three children. Knowing that Krasniqi was not allowed to see the children without supervision. Kendall was surprised to find Kathy and the kids with Sam Krasniqi. Kendall reported to her OHS group leader what she had seen. “I noticed her husband could not keep his hands off Lima,”
according to Kendall’s affidavit. “He was constantly touching, kissing, hugging or stroking her.” After Wunderlich met with Kendall, she drove over to Brentfield Elementary School in Richardson to question Lima and Tim. Reluctantly, the children admitted they had seen their father without OHS supervision at least once since the fire. “But my mother said we could see our father as long as she was there,” Tim yelled out, “My father didn’t hurt me.” Lima shouted. Wunderlich and her supervisor made the decision to remove the children from their home and place them in an emergency care, under the Texas Family Code. Wunderlich put the children in her car. As they drove past the school, the children saw their mother, who was unaware of what was happening, as she waited in her car for them to come out of school, as she did every day. The caseworker told
the children not to look toward their mother as they drove past. The children obeyed.
As required by law, a hearing was held for the emergency removal of the children a few days later to determine whether the children had been in immediate danger. The hearing was held in the courtroom of Judge Hal Gaither. Carol Kendall testified about what she witnessed in the pizza parlor the previous Saturday afternoon. Wunderlich told the judge that she was frightened of Kathy, because she threatened to kill her the first time she went to her home to remove her children. (There is no mention of this threat in Wunderlich’s notes, though she testified that there was). In addition to testifying that Kathy was still uncertain about whether she believed her children had been abused. Wunderlich told Gaither that the parents were suspected in burning their own home. She also said she thought Kathy would disappear with her children if the court returned them to her. When Kathy took the stand, assistant district attorney David Cole aggressively questioned her about disobeying the court order that prevented Sam Krasniqi from seeing the children unsupervised. In broken English. Kathy did the best she could to explain to the
court that she thought it was all right to bring the children to the pizza parlor as long as she was with them. She explained that when Krasniqi was granted supervised visits, Wurtderlich had allowed her to be in the restaurant with her children and Krasniqi unsupervised on two occasions –
the day her house burned down and the next day, when she and her children went there to eat.
When it was over, Gaither took Lima and Tim to his chambers to interview them. Gaither asked the children whether their father had ever touched their private parts. Lima said yes, but never underneath her clothes. Tim said he didn’t remember ever being touched by his father, except when he was a baby. When pressed. Tim said he didn’t actually remember being touched by his father when he was a baby. but he must have, because his father touched his sister’s private parts when she was a “little, tiny baby.” “And nothing has happened in the last six or seven years. Is that what you’re saying? And that’s the truth?” Gaither asked. “Yes, sir,” Tim answered. Gaither quickly made a decision about the children’s fate. In all good conscience, he said, he couldn’t let the children move back in with their mother.
For the next 30 days, Tim and Lima remained in the Fort Worth Assessment Center, where once again they were required to undergo physical exams. This time, Tim was so frightened, he got ill during his exam. Dr. Molly Hansen, a pediatrician, found no injury of a sexual nature. But in contract to Dr. Prescott’s findings five months earlier, Hansen claimed she found physical evidence that Lima had been sexually abused, including scarring in her vagina and rectum and a hymen that was only partially intact, leaving conflicting “expert” opinions.
Motions have now been filed and court dates are set to proceed to terminate the parctnal rights of the Kransniqis’. If termination is granted the children will be placed for adoption and there will never be any further contact with their family. In preparing for the case, an attorney heard about Massachusetts anthropologist Barbara Halpem from DHS psychologist, who told him DHS had contacted her early on in the Krasniqi case, but they never drew on her expertise in Balkan peasant cultures. When Krasniqi heard about Barbara Halpern, he immediately flew to Boston. Upon his arrival, he phoned Halpern in Amherst and requested a face-to-face meeting – all characteristically Albanian, Halpern would later remark. Halpem knew a little bit about the Krasniqi case. She had indeed been contacted several years earlier by a supervisor in the Dallas County Department of Human Services, who asked Halpem for her assistance. Halpem asked for more information, but when it arrived, llalpern decided not to help DHS. “It seemed to me all they were interested in was getting a conviction,” she says. Now in her early 60’s, Halpern and her husband spent time in the Balkans, particularly in village communities, with their three children on and off for the past 40 years. Fluent in 10 languages, Halpem has written or co-written four books on the cultures of the former Yugoslavia. She also has advanced training in child sexual abuse.
Halpern detests testifying as an expert witness, calling it “a bitter game where the object is destroy your credibility.” But after her meeting with Sam Krasniqi, which was conducted in Serbian, Halpern says, “I felt a moral commitment to try to do some good, to she what light I could.” In court she believes she can paint a detailed picture of the culture of Krasniqi’s native land. She described it as a very dignified culture, with a strong moral code, where perhaps the biggest sin was to dishonor one’s family. In Albania, and by extension the Albanian enclave of Kosovo in Southem Serbia, the people are physically very demonstrative, much more so than in the United States and other parts of Europe. Men kiss and hug each other passionately when they greet; soldiers walk down the street hand in hand; and parents kiss, hug and caress their children as if they were pets.
“I raised three children in villages very much like the village Mr. Krasniqi comes from,” Halpern told the jury. “So what I’m about to tell you is the way my own family lived there, too, some of which seemed a little strange to me when we first started living there. Normally, absolutely normally, children and parents often sleep together … bathing is often together ….” Halpern continued. ” … Privacy in the sense I understand you to mean it simply doesn’t exist … Children are adored … smother with kisses and loved and hugged and caressed, fondled, whatever you want to call that, and being an American, that was hard for me to accept at first. Children are kissed full on the lips. Children are kissed on their buttocks. Genitals and buttocks have pet names. We do in our culture, too, sometimes, and children are kissed there … The children’s genitals were a great source of interest and pride, especially because they represent the ongoingness of the family, the ability to procreate.”
This touching of children in Yugoslav peasant villages of South Serbia is done with pride and affection, not sexual intent, Halpem stressed. And it stops at a certain point, at about age seven, when the children leave the home and begin school. She also states that she does not know of one single case of child sexual abuse in Kosovo. “Child abuse does not occur in this particular culture,” she said. “I think it’s because touching and over demonstrative behavior is the norm.”
If true sexual abuse was uncovered in this culture, Halpern testified, it would be considered so dishonorable that the family would kill the offender, or he would kill himself.
To many observers in this case, from lawyers to mental health workers, what happened to the Krasniqis was like being given lethal injection in a petty theft case. “I’ve personally worked with far worse sex offenders – cases where a father had sexual intercourse with his daughter for a period of time – and their rights were not terminated,” says Franklin Lewis, a North Dallas psychologists who specializes in the treatment of sexual offenders. Lewis has treated Krasniqi for two years and does not consider him a sexual offender. “He engaged in some sexually inappropriate behaviors, which he explained were acceptable in his culture,” Lewis says. “He’s always denied he engaged in those behaviors for his own.
Currently Mrs. Krasniqi is despondent but holds to hope and to her faith. Mr. Krasniqi is
reported to have recently told a friend that he has a handgun in his bedroom closet and a small plastic bag filled with bullets. He talks of life not being worth living and his lack of belief that his family will find justice. How much these parents can handle rcmains uncertain. Mrs. Krasniqi has convinced her husband to come to your agency to try to help him find the hope needed to continue to fight for their family and reunification with their children.
Biopsychosocial Case Assessment