So now we know why Rep. Justin Harris and his wife gave away their adopted daughters. Because they were possessed by demons, of course!
Nearly a dozen people interviewed by the Times tell a different story of Justin and Marsha Harris' dealings with DHS and their relationship with the three young girls. Among them: two foster families who cared for the girls prior to the Harris adoption, the girls' biological mother, a former DHS employee familiar with the proceedings and a former babysitter at the Harrises' West Fork home.
Cheryl and Craig Hart, an experienced foster couple who housed Mary and Annie for a year and a half before their adoption by the Harrises, said they tried to talk the Harrises out of adopting the sisters. The Harts said that a local team working on the adoption — including themselves, DHS caseworkers, adoption specialists, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and therapists from Ozark Guidance, a mental health provider — made the Harrises fully aware of the girls' history of neglect and sexual abuse and cautioned them that they were unprepared to handle children from such a background, especially considering their home included young boys. The former DHS employee confirmed this account.
The Harts also said the adoption was allowed to proceed despite their objections because of the direct intervention of Cecile Blucker, head of the Division of Children and Family Services, the arm of DHS responsible for child welfare. They say Blucker exerted pressure on the Washington County DHS office on behalf of Justin Harris to facilitate the adoption. The former DHS employee confirmed this information as well.
Chelsey Goldsborough, who regularly babysat for the Harrises, said Mary was kept isolated from Annie and from the rest of the family. She was often confined for hours to her room, where she was monitored by a video camera. The reason: The Harrises believed the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically, Goldsborough said. Harris and his wife once hired specialists to perform an "exorcism" on the two sisters while she waited outside the house with the boys, she said.
Multiple sources who interacted with the family confirmed Goldsborough's account that the Harrises believed the children were possessed, and another source close to the family said that Marsha Harris spoke openly about the supposed demonic possession.
The Harrises deny those claims. Their attorney, Jennifer Wells, said in a statement: "Exorcisms and telepathy are not part of the Harrises' religious practice. They followed the techniques in a book called 'When Love Is Not Enough, a Parent's Guide to Reactive Attachment Disorder' by Nancy Thomas, who is a recognized expert on therapeutic parenting techniques."
Mary and Annie stayed in the Harris home for no more than 14 months (not two years, as Harris said at the Friday press conference). For about half of that time, from the end of 2012 to summer 2013, Goldsborough would babysit the Harris boys, Annie and, in an unconventional sense, Mary. Goldsborough said she would watch Mary on a monitor linked to a camera in her room, but usually only entered the room to provide food or water. Goldsborough, who is now a college student in Bentonville, said she would stay at the Harris house for three to four hours after school many days during the spring semester of her senior year of high school.
"The first night I was over there, I just broke down and cried with this little girl because I just felt so bad for her," Goldsborough said.