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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Son in abuse case may be charged
Some of the adopted children say he took part in abusing them.
Published August 22, 2007
WEST PALM BEACH - The biological son of a woman charged in a lucrative adoption scam that stretched from New York to Florida is being accused by his disabled siblings of threatening them with a gun, beating them with a club and handcuffing them.
Prosecutor Lev Evans said Tuesday he is considering charges against Desmond Leekin after some of his 11 adopted siblings told Port St. Lucie police investigators that he participated in beatings that their mother, Judith Leekin, has already been charged with.
"We have two victims now claiming that they've been abused by Desmond," Port St. Lucie police spokesman Robert Vega said.
One of the adopted children, Jamel Wells, now 19, told authorities that Desmond Leekin, 39, who worked for the Wackenhut Corp. security firm, handcuffed him to a crib, which caused scarring, and used his "duty weapon" to pistol-whip him in 2004.
According to investigators, Leekin "then put the barrel of the weapon into Jamel's mouth and told him if Jamel ever 'disrespected' his (Desmond's) mother again, he would shoot him."
He told investigators that Leekin also used a billy club to beat him and the other children.
Wells said he would be "punished violently when Judith Leekin would become enraged over little things like not dusting the window sills properly." He said he fled the home in 2004.
Desmond Leekin has told authorities he rarely visited his mother's home because he had a bad relationship with her, and knew very little of the children in her care.
Judith Leekin's attorney, Mario Garcia, would not comment on the allegations against her son, citing a conflict of interest. But he accused police of coaching the adopted children during their interviews.
"Nothing is what it seems," Garcia said Tuesday. He said that because of the investigation, the Florida Department of Children and Families seized Desmond Leekin's children last week. The DCF declined to comment.
Judith Leekin, 62, is charged with multiple counts of abuse. Authorities say she adopted 11 children, many suffering from mental and physical disabilities, from New York City between 1988 and 1996 under various aliases and kept them like prisoners in her Port St. Lucie home. She has pleaded not guilty.
Police say the children - who now range in age from their mid teens to mid 20s - were often handcuffed, beaten, starved and locked in a room. They were deprived of medical care and were not allowed to attend school, police said.
Authorities say Leekin received up to $1.26-million in subsidies from New York for the children's care. She could receive up to 190 years in prison if convicted.
Several children told stories similar to that of Jamel Wells about Desmond Leekin, according to police documents. Tracey Wells, 18, told police Desmond frequently beat the children "including with shoes, belts and sticks."
Several of the children have the last name Wells, one of the aliases police say Judith Leekin used. Authorities say it is unclear how many, if any, of the adopted children are biologically related to each other.