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Archive for Monday, June 13, 2011

Trial set for parents of boy missing since 1999

June 13, 2011

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— The adoptive parents of an 11-year-old Kansas boy who was last seen in 1999 will go to trial later this month on charges that they collected adoption subsidies long after the boy disappeared, as questions endure about what happened to him.

The trial in Butler County District Court of Valerie and Doug Herrman is scheduled to begin June 21. They are each charged with felony theft after allegedly collecting adoption subsidies on Adam Herrman between his disappearance, which wasn't reported to authorities until 2008.

Prosecutors say the trial will focus on the alleged theft, rather than whatever happened to Adam. But new Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said he remains committed to finding Adam and helping get a conviction for those involved in his disappearance, The Wichita Eagle reported Monday.

Herzet was the lead investigator in the case before recently being appointed sheriff.

"I want to get people convicted, and I want to find Adam's remains," Herzet said. "I think we owe that to the family ... and to Adam."

Adam vanished from the Towanda mobile home park where he lived with his adoptive family. Relatives said Valerie Herrman told them that Adam, who was being home-schooled, had been returned to state custody. Authorities didn't learn of the boy's disappearance until late 2008, when his adoptive sister came forward out of concern for him. His parents told authorities that the boy ran away.

The Herrmans told authorities they did not report the boy's disappearance because they feared they would lose custody of him and other children.

Investigators said they could find no records or indication that Adam was still alive.

In 2009, the prosecutor at the time, Jan Satterfield, said the Herrmans were suspects in his disappearance and said the investigation was being treated as a potential murder case. However, only the felony theft charges have been filed.

Darrin Devinney, who was appointed county attorney earlier this year to succeed Satterfield, said the disappearance remains an "active missing person's investigation."

Amended charges allege that the Herrmans accepted $15,488 from November 2003 until July 8, 2005. The original felony theft charges accused the couple of collecting $52,800 between May 1, 1999, and July 8, 2005.

Asked why the charges were amended to include a shorter time frame and less money, Devinney said the decision was based on the strongest evidence available.

The Herrmans, now in their mid-50s, have pleaded not guilty. They have moved to Oklahoma, according to court documents.

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