Invisible Children

Malayia Knapp, and 8 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.

Malayia Knapp (b. 1998) and her sister (b. 2001) were beaten, starved, and imprisoned by their adoptive parents, Mindy Dawn Knapp and Anthony “Andy” Knapp. Their 7 other siblings were not reported to be abused, although at least one other sibling had tried to run away. All the children were homeschooled.

Malayia was the “oldest of six half-siblings of two parents with drug abuse problems and was placed in foster care at age 7” in 2006. She and two of her siblings, ages 6 and 2 at the time, were adopted by the Knapps, who later adopted the other three children. The Knapps also had three biological children. The biological children were treated differently from the adopted children; they were allowed to attend “The Network Connection, a private Christian organization in Des Moines that helps supplement education provided by home-schooling parents.” Malayia and the other adopted children did not receive similar educational supplements. The Knapps began to abuse Malayia in 2008, shortly after the adoption was finalized, and she and her siblings were abused more harshly as time went on. The Knapps changed their names and their social security numbers so family members could not find them. The children were beaten with belts, forced to exercise (often outside without coats or shoes) as punishment, and were often kept tied up. In 2011, the minister at the Knapps’ church, Heritage Assembly of God in Des Moines, noticed that the children were being mistreated and tried to investigate. The Knapps left the church shortly thereafter. In 2014, after Malayia’s sister tried to run away, the Knapps began to lock Malayia and her sister “inside a small basement room with no windows, no bed and a steel door locked from the outside.” In 2015, Malayia was kept locked in the room for seven days with no food. Also that year, the Knapps allowed Malayia to get a job working at McDonald’s so she could save up for when they kicked her out at age 18. The Knapps “grew upset because Malayia talked to people at work,” however, and forced Malayia to quit her job, stole her debit card and phone, and stole the $1400 Malayia had saved.

The abuse came to light in late 2015 when Mindy Knapp forced Malayia’s brother (b. 1999) to punish Malayia and her sister. The punishments included being doused with water and forced to exercise outside without a coat or shoes. As she was exercising outside, Malayia realized she could run away to seek help. She rode her bike to a local store, asked the clerk to borrow a phone, and called the police. Mindy Knapp was charged with two counts of assault; she pleaded guilty and was given a year’s probation. The Knapps were allowed to keep custody of Malayia’s siblings.

Date: December 1, 2015
Urbandale, Iowa


Documents: Date:
Mom Allegedly Instructed Adoptive Children to Abuse Each Other 04-15-2016
Beaten and locked up: Another abuse case raises questions about Iowa’s response 01-21-2017
18-Year-Old Who Escaped Abuse Wants Siblings Freed from Adoptive Mother 01-22-2017
Alleged child abuse victim speaks out, teams up with local lawmaker to spark change 01-23-2017