Special Report: Girl harbored dark secret, fearing she'd be sent away
Dittenber checks her Facebook page in a friend's home in Nashville
By Megan Twohey
MARYSVILLE, Ohio (Reuters) - On an Internet forum where parents sought takers for adopted children they no longer wanted, a teenager from Haiti was offered more frequently than any other girl.
Starting at age 14, Nita Dittenber was passed among four families over two years through a practice called "private re-homing."
In September, Reuters exposed an underground market in which desperate parents use online bulletin boards to offer adoptees to strangers, often illegally and with no government oversight. The Internet forums, including the Yahoo group where Nita was advertised, can enable abusers to acquire children easily; in one case, a pedophile in Illinois took home a 10-year-old boy hours after an ad for the child was posted online.
In the last home where Nita was sent, re-homing served a different purpose, Ohio prosecutors contend. They say it was used to silence Nita and another girl in an effort to conceal the repeated sexual abuse of children.
For 17 months - from early 2011 until July 2012 - Nita lived in the Ohio city of Marysville with Jean Paul and Emily Kruse. Jean Paul was an information-technology specialist with the Ohio National Guard. Emily was a stay-at-home mother. The Kruses were the fourth family to take custody of her in America.
Not long after she was sent there, Nita says, the younger Kruse children told her they were being molested by Jean Paul. Nita says she struggled for months over whether to speak up about the allegations, fearing she'd be thrown out of the house and sent to yet another set of strangers if she did.
"I didn't want to get passed around anymore," Nita, now 18, says in an interview.
Months later, according to criminal charges filed in Union County Court here, Emily Kruse abruptly put Nita on a flight back to her original adoptive parents in Idaho - alone and "with only the clothes on her back."
The reason: Kruse discovered that Nita had told relatives of the Kruses about the abuse accusations. Prosecutors say Emily sent Nita away to ensure the teen "would not be around to answer questions or participate in the resulting investigation." They say another girl - an alleged victim of the abuse - was also threatened by Emily with re-homing unless she wrote a letter saying her accusations against Jean Paul were "not true."
Jean Paul Kruse, 41, has pleaded not guilty to 17 felony criminal counts, including raping two of his daughters and sexually abusing another daughter. He and his attorney didn't respond to interview requests. Emily Kruse, 36, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of obstructing justice and intimidating a witness. She declined to comment; her attorney did not respond to questions.