Invisible Children

Shane Graham and 10 Siblings

Content note: Case narratives include descriptions of severe violence inflicted on children, including abuse and neglect, sexual violence, torture, and murder, as well as mentions of suicide and domestic violence. They also include photos of victims and perpetrators of violence.

judith leekin
Shane Graham, age 11, disappeared in 1999 or 2000. He had autism, Down’s Syndrome, and sickle-cell anemia. His adoptive mother, Judith Leekin, is believed to have murdered him and buried him in the yard of one of her houses, although his body has not been found. Leekin also abused 10 other adopted special needs children. Leekin adopted eleven times between 1988 and 1996 in New York before moving her family to Florida in 1998. Neighbors reported Leekin for child abuse in 1999 and the police attempted to substantiate the reports, visiting her houses multiple times, but were never able to observe the children. The abuse was eventually discovered in 2007 when police found adopted daughter Tracey Wells, age 18, abandoned in the parking lot of a supermarket. The police then conducted a search of Leekin’s house. Most of the children were scarred and missing teeth. None could read or write. The children said that Leakin had threatened to shoot them or cut off their heads if they ever revealed her secrets. Neighbors reported hearing Leekin screaming at the children, “cursing at them, the ‘whacks’ of her hitting them and the cries of the children.” Leekin constructed an elaborate surveillance system which allowed her to keep watch on a closed-circuit monitor. Tracey Wells reported “being forced to hide in secret rooms when someone would come to the house.” Leekin homeschooled the children. Leekin was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Stephen Wells (born in 1987) reported that he was handcuffed, tied up, and forced to sleep on a cold tile floor in a locked hallway, where he soiled himself because he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom. He was denied education, medical care and food, and  spent his entire life indoors. Jamel Wells (born in 1988) reported that Leekin used a billy club to beat him and the other children. He was also handcuffed to a crib and pistol-whipped by Leakin’s biological son, Desmond Leekin, who then put the gun in Jamel’s mouth and threatened to shoot him. Tracey Wells (born in 1989) said Leekin once punished her by burning her hand on a stove. She also reported that Desmond Leekin frequently beat the children “including with shoes, belts and sticks.” Another of Leekin’s children was an autistic and developmentally disabled girl adopted at age 7. Though she cannot describe her abuse, her siblings have described “her pulling her decaying teeth from her own mouth, the result of a childhood of no dental care.” Another of Leekin’s children was an autistic and developmentally disabled boy adopted at age 5. He is now blind and missing teeth, and his disabilities also prevent him from expressing what happened to him.

Date: July 4, 2007
Location: New York City and Port St. Lucie, Florida

Documents: Date:
Port St Lucie Police 1999 report on Judith Leekin 1999-02-05
Do You Know This Woman? Arrested for the Abuse of 9 People In Her Care 2007-07-22
Judith Leekin’s arrest warrent 2007-07-24
Records point to extent of abuse by PSL woman 2007-07-25
Children’s Services Assists With Investigation of a Florida Woman Charged With Adoption Fraud and Child Abuse 2007-07-30
Update: Greed, Motivation For Abuse 2007-07-31
Police: Handcuffs scarred adoptees’ wrists 2007-07-31
Cops Find 9 Adopted Kids Handcuffed, Starved 2007-08-01
Adopt ma began her cruel $3M ‘con job in 1970’s 2007-08-01
Criminal Case After Adoptions Spurs Review 2007-08-01
(Update 2) The Number of Known Adoptees Has Risen to 11 In Abuse Case 2007-08-01
One Woman, 11 Adoptions and a Time of Urgency 2007-08-02
New York Stymied Fla. Adoption Inquiry 2007-08-07
(Update 3) 11th Adoptee May Be Dead 2007-08-11
One kid in PSL abuse case may be dead 2007-08-11
Adoption records to help case, kids in Judith Leekin trial in PSL 2007-08-17
Adoption Scam Stretched From NYC to Fla. 2007-08-18
11 children endure scars of adoption scam 2007-08-18
Police: Adopted children tormented; scam widespread 2007-08-19
Son in abuse case may be charged 2007-08-22
ACS’S ‘KID’ GLOVES 2007-09-16
Leekin’s son dropped from criminal investigation in child abuse case 2007-10-01
Leekin asks court for public defender in PSL abuse case 2007-10-04
New York judge still ponders release of records in Leekin case 2007-10-06
Police: Woman accused in adoption scam may have killed child 2008-01-10
Adopted Leekin child remains missing 2008-01-11
NY woman pleads guilty in adoption scam 2008-05-20
New York: Guilty Plea in Fraud Scheme Involving Adoption of Disabled Children 2008-05-23
Port St. Lucie woman accused of abuse may go to trial soon 2008-05-27
Lawyers: Severely punish NY woman who abused kids 2008-07-14
back in Fla. 2008-08-28
Leekin facing new charge in extensive child abuse case 2008-11-26
Leekin to accept plea deal in Port St. Lucie child abuse case 2009-01-08
Leekin to accept plea deal in Port St. Lucie child abuse case 2009-01-08
Leekin court hearing postponed 2009-01-26
Judith Leekin sentenced to 20 years 2009-02-04
Judith Leekin sentenced to 20 years for abusing disabled adults 2009-02-04
Port St. Lucie woman accused of abusing 11 adopted children sentenced to 20 years 2009-02-04
Fla. woman in adoption scam gets more prison time 2009-02-05
Fla. woman in adoption scam gets 20 years 2009-02-05
Former Queens Resident Gets 20 Years For Abusing Disabled Kids 2009-02-05
Police Search Yards Of Leekin’s Former Homes 2009-02-22
Police Use Radar To Search Yard Of Leekin’s Former Home 2009-02-25
Police search for the remains of a missing Port St. Lucie boy 2009-02-25
Police return to Leekin home with radar 2009-02-25
Suit Contends City Failed to Prevent Adoption Fraud 2009-04-29
Abusive adoptive mom’s kids seek money for treatment 2009-04-30
Adoptive Teenager Recounts Childhood of Abuse 2009-04-30
Lawsuits filed over severely abused special-needs children 2009-04-30
Answer in ‘House of Horrors’ Lawsuit Expected This Month 2009-05-05
New Look at City Lapses in Adoption Abuse Case 2011-08-25
Judith Leekin, AKA “Eastlyn Giraud,” and the Ease of Fooling New York City’s Child Welfare System [opinion] 2011-08-26
$68 Million Settlement Proposed for 10 Children Fraudulently Adopted and Abused 2011-12-29
Editorial: Some measure of justice might come for victims of Judith Leekin of Port St. Lucie 2012-01-15
Judith Leekin Lawsuit: NYC Agrees To Pay $9.7 Million To Abused Foster Kids 2012-12-06
City Settles With Disabled People Fraudulently Adopted in ’90s and Abused 2012-12-06
Judith Leekin lawsuit: Partial settlement reached in Port St. Lucie child abuse case 2012-12-10