Categories: Schenectady County
Police arrested an adoptive mother and her boyfriend and charged them with abusing the woman’s 18-year-old developmentally disabled daughter by leaving her outside in the cold as punishment.
Darla Starson, 53, of Suncrest Drive in Waterford, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with misdemeanor endangerment.
Starson’s boyfriend, Wayne Thomas, also 53, of West Haven, Conn., was charged with endangerment, assault and criminal mischief, all misdemeanors. Thomas had been living with Starson, police said.
Police were tipped off about the alleged abuse after a neighbor witnessed it over a period of at least several weeks and videotaped it, police said.
Waterford police officer Jeremy Connors assisted in the arrest and said that he watched a video in which the teenager was locked out of the home and forced to sit outside at a picnic table in frigid weather.
“We believe at this point that it was a form of discipline,” Connors said. “I don’t do that with my children.”
The young woman, whose name was not released, is currently living in a group home with Saratoga Bridges, an organization that offers services to developmentally disabled people.
“At one point we have her [outside] in just a winter coat, no gloves, no hat, and no boots on,” Connors said. “A second occasion that has been recorded is one where she is out there in just a sweatsuit, and this is at night-time and the temperature was below freezing.”
Connors said that he confirmed the cold temperatures by comparing the dates of videotapes with weather reports.
“We still have hours more of videotape that we need to review and more charges could come out of it,” he said. “It’s been going on at least for a couple weeks.”
Thomas was charged with criminal mischief because police claim he discovered and then destroyed the camera that the neighbor had been using to record the alleged abuse. Police also have video evidence that they said showed that he may have assaulted the young woman.
Thomas went to Connecticut on Tuesday but agreed to come back to Waterford after police spoke with him on the phone. He was arrested on Wednesday.
Connors commended the neighbor who reported the alleged abuse.
“We never would have found out if she didn’t come forward,” Public Safety Commissioner John Tanchak said. “This is the assistance that law enforcement needs.”
The neighbor did not wish to be identified but said in an interview Thursday that Starson and Thomas had been her neighbors for about three years.
“I would notice bruises and scrapes and things of that nature, and I would ask Darla, where did she get those?” the neighbor said. “After a while you can only believe so much of that without beginning to wonder.”
The neighbor has a restraining order against Starson but said that she has already heard threats made against her.
Despite that, the neighbor said she doesn’t regret telling police about the abuse of the young woman.
“It was most definitely the right thing to do,” she said. “She’s going to be loved the way she deserves to be loved.”
Both Starson and Thomas have been released with no bail. If convicted, Starson faces a maximum of one year in prison and Thomas faces a possible three years. Neither had prior criminal records, police said.