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Step-mother, father convicted of abusing emaciated 5-year-old boy found under staircase

December 18, 2018

When police arrived at the Bleimeyer home in 2014 to break up a fist fight between a rowdy 16-year-old and his stepfather, they had no idea of the horrors they would find.

The fight, they soon learned, was a brave ruse by the teenager to get police to come to the house.

The teen wanted police to discover his 5-year-old step-brother, weighing only 29 pounds and covered in cuts and bruises, who had been forced to live in a crawlspace in a closet under the stairs of the blended family’s home in Spring. Earlier that day, the teen finally found the courage to defy his parents and force his way into the closet where where his stepbrother Jordan spent his days on a bare concrete floor.

“When he saw what he saw, he was deeply affected by it,” Assistant Harris County District Attorney Stephen Driver said about the teen. “He went and looked in the closet because he had his suspicions. He picked his moment to go check and that’s when he just lost it.”

Last week, Driver and prosecutor Ashlea Sheridan convinced a Harris County jury to put 38-year-old Tami Bleimeyer in prison for 28 years for abusing her stepson.

Earlier, her husband, Bradley Bleimeyer, 29, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a plea deal for his role in the neglect, starvation and physical attacks that included electrical shocks from a Taser.

Sending both parents to jail resolved a child abuse case that shocked Houstonians who saw photos of the emaciated and hollow-eyed 5-year-old — his bones visible through his skin.

In an effort to keep Tami Bleimeyer out of prison, defense attorney Matt Horak argued during a two-week trial that the mother — an educated person who worked as a paralegal — was like her children a victim of domestic violence by a brutal husband.

“By all accounts from the witnesses, Tami was the victim of prolonged and brutal physical and emotional domestic violence,” Horak said in a statement to the Chronicle.

He said other people, including Jordan’s mother, testified that they had been abused by Brad Bleimeyer. “I wish that fact would have weighed in more with the jury’s punishment verdict.”

Brad Bleimeyer’s attorney declined to comment on the case.

Prosecutors, and the jury, disagreed with Horak’s explanation, deciding that the former paralegal used her knowledge of the law and procedure to thwart police investigations and circumvent attempted interventions by Child Protective Services.

“She was a person who was very intelligent, very crafty and very manipulative,” Driver said. “There were a lot of photographs at trial that seemed to portray a healthy and happy family, but what was lurking behind those photos was something quite dark.”

Jordan was treated “differently”

Tami Bleimeyer already had five children with three men when she married Brad Bleimeyer, who had Jordan from an earlier relationship. The couple married and had another child, and she was pregnant with her seventh child when she was arrested for abusing Jordan.

Jordan came to live with his father and step-siblings not long after his father married Tami Bleimeyer. At first, he was treated the same as Tami’s other children, including her 5-year-old son.

Then, Driver said, Jordan started getting disciplined more often, for more things, with harsher punishments.

It started with longer periods in time-out and quickly escalated. Soon, his parents took away his pajamas, then his pillow, and finally his mattress as punishments. They started sending him to the “Harry Potter Room” an unfinished closet under the stairs with a concrete floor, exposed nails and wiring leading to a crawlspace where he spent hours, then days.

His siblings were forbidden from opening the door to check on him. He had to stay in there, wearing only a diaper, “as punishment” sometimes for days. During these months, prosecutors said, Brad began beating the boy at Tami’s direction.

Then, withholding food became the next level of punishment. It was a chaotic home where dinners were sporadic at best, prosecutors said. When food was served, it was usually out of fast food bags.

When Jordan was being “punished,” Driver said, he was not allowed any food. His siblings were forbidden to give him anything. Even if the whole family was in the car going through a drive-thru.

In January 2014, Tami Bleimeyer’s 16-year-old began telling people what was going on, and even got police to show up, but his mother was able to convince investigators there wasn’t a problem.

Jordan had recently been sent to Ohio to live with relatives and had returned looking healthier. Child Protective Services visited the Bleimeyers in February, about a month before the fistfight on March 28, 2014. Investigators who photographed and interviewed the boy at the time did not believe he was in poor health.

But by the time police returned in March to break up the fight, he weighed just 29 pounds. He was living on slices of bread that were taken from him if he couldn’t eat it fast enough, prosecutors said.

“During that fight, he caused enough noise, raised enough of a ruckus that somebody called police and that was the triggering event that led to Jordan’s rescue,” Driver said of the teen. “Had he not done that, I believe Jordan would have died.”

The teen who told deputies of his brother’s abuse said he believed one of the parents slammed Jordan’s head into a wall and shocked him with a stun gun. Jordan, who was so emaciated he was compared in court to a Holocaust survivor, has recovered and now lives with his biological mother.

“I hope, from this point forward, there will be some healing for everybody involved.” said Sheridan, the other prosecutor.

“Somebody with hate in her heart”

The case has left most Houstonians shaking their heads and asking how a mother could try to starve a child to death.

“This is just somebody who has hate in her heart,” said Brian J. Sweeney, PhD, a Houston forensic psychologist who reviews criminal cases. “And somehow she feels okay, possibly even better by getting her hate out.”

Sweeney, who has not interviewed Bleimeyer and spoke generally about situations of extreme abuse, said he suspects she is a sociopath, someone who cannot feel empathy.

“When people are abusing in this way, they’re doing it out of self-hate as much or more out of anger toward a particular child,” he said. “That particular child triggers something in them, typically about their past.”

He said Tami Bleimeyer may have resented Jordan because he was the only child in the household who was not her biological child. She may have been jealous of her husband’s love for his son.

“When you see someone who’s natural propensity is to harm and hurt, you know they’ve got some severe self-hate and hatred of the world,” he said. “And I don’t think people like that have high rehabilitative potential.”

Sweeney noted that abusers generally were abused as children. But, he said, it’s important to remember that the majority of people who are abused do not grow up and abuse their children.

“People are very resilient,” he said. “Most grow up to be okay.”

Pct. 4 Constable Mark Herman, who was assistant chief when the Bleimeyers were first arrested, said he hopes the verdict and sentence means no other children will end up in similar situations.

“I hope a lot of people see this and see the results of this and I hope it will save other kids, down the road, from going through what this kid went through.” he said. “Justice has been served.”

He said CPS was investigating the family and that his deputies were in the home in January of that year. It was one of several times deputies were called to the home. Each time, Herman said, the Bleimeyers avoided them. He said this case continues to affect him and the investigators who worked on it.

“This is one of the most horrific cases of child abuse and neglect that I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “It’s just one of those cases that will stay with you.”

Prominent family attorney and blogger Greg Enos, who was not connected to the case, said abuse is not unusual in family law but the Bleimeyer case is far outside the norm.

“It’s extraordinarily rare to see long-term neglect and imprisonment of a kid by anyone, because how do you get away with it? Who allows it to happen?” he said. “It has to be an unusual scenario for you to get away with something like that without people asking questions. So, fortunately, it’s really, really rare.”

Enos, who is a step-father himself, said the abuse should not color how step-parents are perceived.

“For every one case like that, there are a million step-parents who are doing their best in a very difficult situation.”

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