No Light in the Forest
Now that possibility is looking ever more remote. On Feb. 28 Richard Allen was arrested and arraigned on charges of child molestation involving a 12-year-old girl and her 13-year-old sister, both of whom had worked as babysitters for the Aliens' 2-year-old son Andrew, who was in the final stages of being adopted by the couple. "This is bull," says Allen, who pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. "For every person that says I did something wrong, I've got 25 different people who say I didn't."
Nonetheless, authorities removed Andrew from the Aliens' home and, according to the Aliens' California attorney, the state is encouraging the birth mother to reconsider her consent to the adoption. As for the charges against him, Allen maintains they were fabricated by Carl McHenry, owner of a property management company in Loma Linda, Calif., where Vickie once worked. McHenry is suing the Aliens to recover nearly $300,000 in funds that he contends the couple embezzled from him, which the Aliens also deny. McHenry acknowledges that he raised the molestation accusations with child-welfare officials who contacted him while conducting a routine background check on the Aliens during the time the couple were preparing to adopt the twins, Kiara and Keyara, who are now 8 months old. McHenry says he was told of the accusations by the alleged victims' father, who once worked for him and was also a good friend of Richard's. The father, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect his daughters, insists he has no ax to grind against Allen. "I never saw that side of him," he says. "The charges are true—sad, but true and accurate."
Yet Allen's legal troubles may have little bearing on his efforts to get back the twins. When Tranda Wecker, a receptionist with a criminal record for stealing, took the kids back, she was well within her rights, since California adoption law gives the birth mother a 90-day grace period in which to change her mind. Thus the Aliens' adoption was never completed, leaving the real battle among the Kilshaws, Wecker, who wants the kids back, and the twins' biological father, Aaron Wecker, 29, a welder who recently filed for divorce from Tranda and is seeking custody on his own. (Aaron concedes that he signed a consent-to-adopt form but says he did so only because he thought it would be best for the girls to be with an intact family.) But on March 6 a chancery court judge in Little Rock issued a critical decision in the case, ruling that the Kilshaws' original adoption should be voided because Tranda Wecker had not lived in the state 30 days as required by law before putting her children up for adoption.
Meanwhile the twins, whom the Kilshaws renamed Kimberley and Belinda, have been in foster care in North Wales since Jan. 18. During that time Judith Kilshaw, 47, has had her own brush with the law. On Feb. 21 she was arrested on suspicion of theft, though no charges have yet been filed. She claims she simply tried to buy traveler's checks with a credit card on which she had exceeded her limit. "It's a stitch-up job," she says. "It will be sorted out." The fate of the twins may be clarified as well on March 19, when a British high court is expected to issue a ruling in the case. Given the Arkansas decision, the court is likely to come under considerable pressure to return the children to the United States, with custody probably to be determined by a court in Missouri, where both Weckers live. Sadly, in this troublesome case, that seems to count as progress.
Ron Arias in Los Angeles, Steve Barnes in Little Rock and Pete Norman in London