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Parents Charged in Alleged Starvation, Straitjacket Abuse

July 14, 1993

ATLANTA (AP) _ Three thin, bruised children finally made a run for it.

They dashed to an aunt’s house, saying their stepfather had beaten them and tied them up with makeshift straitjackets over the weekend.

The youngsters were taken to a hospital, where they needed intravenous feedings because they had lost nearly half their weight in the last two years, relatives said.

All of this occurred, even though social workers had received numerous reports of abuse, made regular visits to the home and sent the parents to classes to learn how to discipline the children without hurting them.

On Tuesday the stepfather, Herbert Clemons, was arrested. And their mother, Alberta Clemons, was charged Wednesday for failing to report the abuse. Both were held in the Fulton County jail and were scheduled to appear in court next week.

Mrs. Clemons claimed the abuse allegations were part of a ploy by relatives to take the children away.

But Fulton County police Det. W.J. Ervin said, ″We had enough probable cause to believe that she was aware of what happened.″

The children - Dwight Barnes Jr., 6, Tanisha Barnes, 7, and Preston Brown Jr., 10 - and a baby born to their mother last week were placed in the care of the state. A custody hearing was set for Friday.

Police and doctors said the three children had been beaten and tied up last weekend.

All three were fed intravenously because they were so thin; Preston had dropped from 58 pounds to about 30 pounds, relatives said.

Ervin said the children looked thin and had bruises on their bodies on Sunday. Preston’s father, Preston Brown, said the three were straitjacketed by large shirts with the sleeves tied behind their backs.

The three were in stable condition Wednesday, said Sherekaa Osorio, spokeswoman for the Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services.

Fulton County social workers, who had been visiting the home about twice a month for more than a year, should have noticed and investigated the children’s weight loss, said Doug Greenwell, head of the state DFACS office.

″I would concur that if a child has lost 30 pounds in a short period of time, obviously we should have picked up on that,″ Greenwell said.

But he said there were discrepancies in the relatives’ charges of abuse. He refused to elaborate.

″Until I know what is accurate and what is perception, I can’t say if we did a poor job or if we did reasonable job,″ he said.

Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard demanded Wednesday to see DFACS files on the children in the first test of a new law allowing top state officials to view once-confidential child protective service records.

Representatives of child advocacy groups said the case was another example of the state’s failure to protect children.

″When they visited the home, what they should have done is made the moves to protect the children,″ said Rick McDevitt, president of the Georgia Alliance for Children. ″I don’t think they do a good job in investigating the abusive circumstances that surround these kids.″

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