VANCOUVER-- The Washington Department of Social and Health Services is being sued for failing to protect children in the care of a Vancouver couple convicted of gross child abuse and neglect.
Jeffrey and Sandra Weller were convicted in February 2013 of imprisoning and abusing two adopted twins. Jeffrey was found guilty on 14 out of 15 counts of assault and unlawful imprisonment. Sandra was found guilty on nine out of 10 counts. Jeffrey was sentenced to 21 years, Sandra, to 20 years.
In court documents released to KGW Friday, attorneys representing five children in the Weller’s care said their clients had been "subjected to horrific abuse and/or neglect at the hands of Jeffrey and Sandra Weller."
The suit claims that DSHS failed to investigate the Wellers despite numerous reports and warnings indicating that child abuse.
The suit said that DSHS failed to act on reports of neglect, such as a 2004 report alleging that Sandra Weller was "withholding food as punishment for her 9-year-old twins" and that the two were "always hungry."
A DSHS social worker visited the Weller home in 2004 and found an alarm rigged to go off if the twins got up in the middle of the night “to go to the bather room or raid the kitchen," documents say.
The lawsuit which lists over 100 such incidents also included a 2008 interview between a social worker and one the children, age 8 at the time, in which the child stated he was forced to stand in the corner "for a couple of days" as punishment.
In December attorneys filed a multi-millionaire dollar lawsuit against the State of Washington. Friday's filing did not specify what specific damages were sought.
Attorneys at the plaintiff's firm of Hagen, Berman, Sobol, Shapiro LLP did not respond to KGW phone calls at the time of this posting.