Children are among the most vulnerable within our communities. There are systems in place whose sole purpose it is to protect these children. One would expect that when child abuse is reported to these systems, it is thoroughly investigated, even more so if multiple similar reports come in. In Eugene, Oregon, the Department of Human Services received numerous reports about a girl being abused in her home. Time and time again, they failed to do their jobs and as a result, the abuse victim paid the ultimate price
Jeanette Maples was a 16-year-old girl living in Eugene, Oregon. She had been a student at Cascade Middle School from 2006 where she was known for her immense love of reading. However, in 2008, after graduating from the eighth grade, she became a home-schooled student registered with Lane Education Service District. She lived at home with her mother, Angela McAnulty and Angela’s husband, Richard McAnulty.
Just before 8PM on the 9th of December, 2009, police and paramedics were called to the home in the 150 block of Howard Avenue. Inside, they discovered Jeanette, injured and unconscious in the bathtub. According to Angela, Jeanette had been asleep in the living room when she simply stopped breathing.
Jeanette was rushed to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield but was pronounced dead on arrival. Upon first glance at Jeanette, it was evident that she had been the victim of prolonged abuse and starvation. Dr. Daniel Davis, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, said that Jeanette had suffered so much harm that was inflicted in so many ways that he could not determine which injury had killed her. She had also completely wasted away; there was no fat on her body and very little muscle tissue.
The starvation alone could have been fatal but there were numerous injuries all across Jeanette’s body that were in various stages of healing. There were at least 200 injuries, many of which had been caused when Jeanette was struck by a manufactured object with a straight, machined edge. He discovered that there was a hole in the back of Jeanette’s head which had caused bleeding on her brain. Additionally, Jeanette had pneumonia in the form of an abscessed lung that may have sent bacteria into her bloodstream, causing shock and death.
The autopsy concluded that Jeanette’s death came in the course of, or as a result of, intentional maiming and torture.
Later that night, Angela McAnulty and her husband, Richard McAnulty, were arrested and arraigned and held in the Lane County jail. Following the arrests, Angela’s two other children – 12-year-old and 5-year-old – were taken into protective custody.
The arrests came to a shock to most wo knew the couple. Tom Mirsepassi, who had been renting the home out to the couple, said that he couldn’t quite believe what they had been accused of. He described them as always coming across as extremely nice and said he never had problems with them. Bobby Stolp, president of Raider Trucking who had employed Richard as a truck driver for seven years, said that Richard was always an excellent employee.
However, soon enough, a grim history of abuse and torture in the household surfaced. While the family’s home was being searched, investigators found a blood-stained broken ruler, two blood-stained belts and tree branch switches covered in blood. They additionally discovered a flesh and blood-spattered room which was evidently where the abuse occurred.
Investigators also found a piece of cardboard covered in blood. The cardboard would be placed under Jeanette as she slept on the floor so that she would not soil the carpet with her blood. When the investigators pulled up the carpet, they found that blood had flowed off the cardboard and through the carpet and its pad, staining a wooden subfloor below. Similar stains were discovered beneath the carpeting of Jeanette’s room in the family’s previous home as well, indicating that the abuse been extremely prolonged.
Jeanette was the only child in the household to suffer and before taking Jeanette away for a beating, Angela would turn on a vacuum cleaner and leave it running so that her other children couldn’t hear what was happening.
On one occasion, Jeanette had been punched with such force that her pulverized lip needed stitches. However, Angela and Richard didn’t take her to the doctors. As a result, her injuries healed from the inside out, leaving her mouth deformed by scar tissue. Far too often, Jeanette’s wounds would become open and infected. One such wound on her hip was deep enough that it exposed bone. Once again, Angela and Richard didn’t take Jeanette to hospital. Instead, somebody in the home used a knife to trim away the dying tissue.
Despite the fact that the house was filled with food, Jeanette had been systematically starved. In fact, the family’s cat and dog ate better than Jeanette. Angela would turn off the water supply to the kitchen tap, leaving Jeanette to drink from the dog’s water dish or from the toilet, and she would lock the pantry so that Jeanette couldn’t steal food.
Once incarcerated, Angela first of all blamed Richard and Jeanette herself for the hundreds of injuries. Over the next few hours of the interrogation, Angela changed her story numerous times. However, according to Richard and the couple’s 5-year-old son, it was Angela that inflicted all of the injuries herself while Richard did nothing to protect Jeanette.
Finally, Angela confessed to hitting her daughter with the objects that had been discovered in the home. However, she said: “I spanked my daughter. I don’t know how many times but only on the bottom. I did wrong. It was horrible of me. I am very sorry. I wish I could take it bac. I didn’t do the injury on the head. I know she probably died from that…” In regards to the hole on Jeanette’s head, Angela suggested that had come from a fall.
When Richard was interrogated, he placed all of the blame on Angela. He said that Jeanette had long been singled out for mistreatment and on Christmas and Thanksgiving, while the rest of the family were feasting, Jeanette would get a peanut butter sandwich. While her siblings slept in beds, Jeanette slept on a piece of cardboard on the floor.
When birthdays rolled around each year, Jeanette’s siblings would be showered with gifts but Jeanette would receive nothing. During the interview, Richard said that in addition to the beatings, Angela would force Jeanette to stand for hours at a time with her arms raised above her head, even when she could not put weight on one foot because Angela had stomped on it. She also made Jeanette kneel with her hands behind her back for hours on end.
According to Richard, he did not seek help for Jeanette because he was ailing from complications of a heart attack and was afraid of his wife. He claimed that Angela controlled the house to the point that he had to ask her to use the bathroom because she kept the kept the door locked and she was the only one to have a key.
Investigators learned that Jeanette’s step grandmother had called a state hotline on behalf of her after she became concerned that Jeanette was being abused by Angela and Richard. Lynne McAcnulty was Richard’s mother and Jeanette’s step-grandmother but she treated Jeanette like she was one of her own. In fact, Lynne had called the hotline several times, trying to get somebody to check up on Jeanette and investigate whether she was being abused in the home.
Lynne had become concerned about Jeanette’s well-being after she noticed that she had a split and swollen lip. When she questioned Angela and Richard about Jeanette’s injuries, they had claimed that she had fallen down but Lynne was extremely skeptical of their allegations. As she described, it looked as though Jeanette had been punched in the face.
According to Lynne, she had initially become concerned about Jeanette before the injuries. Shortly after Jeanette was taken out of school and started home-schooling, Lynne had noticed that Jeanette was losing weight drastically and appeared to be more withdrawn. Lynne had questioned Angela regarding Jeanette’s appearance and told her to get ger checked out but Angela simply responded by saying that Jeanette was fine.
Lynne had relayed her fears to a close friend who had encouraged her to report potential abuse. Lynne reported potential abuse a number of times, the first of which was at least several months before Jeanette was killed. The report she made was anonymous because she feared that if her son and Angela found out that it was her reporting them, she would be forbidden from seeing her grandchildren. In hindsight, Lynne said she wished she called the police but she had believed that CPS would have done their job and checked up on Jeanette.
Following the revelation, Dr. Bruce Goldberg, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, ordered an internal investigation into whether caseworkers had any contact with the family. It is Oregon law that when a child who is known to state child welfare officials dies or is seriously injured, the Department of Health Services must convene a critical incident response team to comb though the agency’s files and contact with the family in question.
On the night of Jeanette’s murder, Angela had called Lynne. She cried and screamed down the phone that something had happened to Jeanette. She said that she was cold and they couldn’t wake her up. Lynne asked Angela if she had called 911 to which Angela said no, because she didn’t want to go to jail. Lynne then demanded to speak to her son and told he that he better call 911 himself or she’d be on the way over to the house with police. Richard complied and called 911. Lynne called back minutes later and spoke with Angela once again and Angela told her that she had beaten Jeanette and got carried away.
Later on, after Jeanette had passed away, Lynne came to the hospital where she wanted to see her body. However, law enforcement officials convinced her otherwise: “They said ‘you don’t want to do that.’ They told me she weighed 50 pounds.” According to Lynne, when she arrived at the hospital, her son told her that he had whipped Jeanette. She recalled: “I told my son ‘You tell the truth. You’re to blame, but you’re not taking the blame for something someone else did.’”
Lynne told police that she doubted that Richard physically abused Jeanette but said she believed that he ignored the obvious signs of her distress. She also said that five nights before Jeanette had died, Richard had phoned her to say that he was upset because he found Jeanette drinking from a toilet.
According to Kellee Clark, who lived across the street from the family, she very rarely saw Jeanette. On the rare occasion that she spotted her, she said that she always looked down and remained silent. The last time that she saw her, which was in the summer, she said that Jeanette looked especially frail and sad. She said: “The last picture I have of her in my mind is terrifying… You don’t know the guilt I’m feeling, because I feel like I should have made more of an effort. I always knew something was not right at that house.” Another neighbour, Diana Carson, who lived next door, told the media that she had never seen Jeanette. She wasn’t even aware that she was living in the house.
Jeanette’s father, Anthony Maples, soon came forward. He spoke to the media and said that he had not seen or heard from Jeanette in nearly a decade. He had learned of her death and the subsequent arrest of Angela and Richard in a phone call from a social worker. “I am so crushed by this. I know that I have to accept this as God’s will, but it’s disgusting that this happened to my little angel.”
By this point in the investigation, very little was known about the suspects and the victim, but detectives would soon learn that Angela had been the victim of abuse throughout her childhood.
When Angela was just 4-years-old, her mother had been stabbed to death. Afterwards, she and her two brothers were sent to live with their abusive father who withheld food and beat them.
After high school Angela abused drugs while living a transient life, travelling around with a carnival worker. Then in the early 1990s, Angela met Anthony and they had three children together. Anthony spent most of the decade in and out of prison due to drug offence and said that California state officials had removed their children from their home.
Their two sons – who by this point were 17 and 18-years-old – had grown up in a foster home after they wrote a letter to the family court judge overseeing their case pleading not to be sent back to their mother. Jeanette spent 5 and a half years in foster care before officials granted Angela custody of Jeanette. By that time, Angela had another daughter and once she gained custody of Jeanette, they moved from Sacramento Valley to Eugene.
Richard had been introduced to Angela through his cousin, Mary Freeman, who had met her 13 years ago in a Catholic-run maternity home for unwed mothers in California. According to Mary, Angela had always had a short fuse when it came to Jeanette. Even when Jeanette was a young girl, Angela would pull her hair, slap her and stuff hot peppers in her mouth. Then in 2002, Richard and Angela were married.
Jeanette was enrolled in Cascade Middle School in the middle of her sixth-grade year. Her classmates would recollect that she was sent in wearing tattered sweatpants and an old yellowing t-shirt, and a number of pupils made fun of her. While Jeanette was often teased about her clothing and her appearance, she truly loved school, in particular reading books and poetry. However, there were signs of trouble. Jeanette was constantly hungry and when it came time to go home, Jeanette would become withdrawn and anxious.
In mid-December, both Angela and Richard were formally indicted on charges of first-degree murder. Lawyers entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of both of them. Meanwhile, a public memorial for Jeanette was held in Springfield. Around 100 people – including relatives, friends, and strangers – gathered for the memorial.
Jeanette had been a keen writer and during the memorial, one of her pieces was read out: “The final place I would use my wings to go to is to go really high and even higher to heaven. I would visit the angels and I would visit my grandma Nancy and everyone else in the family… and after, I would go to Hawaii and France and Portugal and the beautiful heaven. I would use my wings to fly home.”
The memorial included a slide show depicting photographs of Jeanette at different stages in her short life. Afterwards, Lynne said: “This was all for her. I don’t think she ever had anything in her life that was just for her. I think that all she ever wanted was for her mother to love her…”
The murder as well as the grim history of the family truly put a cloud over Eugene. Friends, family members, neighbours, store clerks, and anybody else who had come into contact with the family all had to grapple with the idea that they missed the signs of abuse. It would soon be revealed that Lynne wasn’t the only person to report fears of abuse in the McAnulty home. A concerned parent of a friend and former teachers had called DHS. Some reported that she was constantly bruised and hungry while others had reported that had confided in them that she had been beaten at home.
Back when Jeanette was still in school, she tried unsuccessfully to hide the constant cluster of bruises she had all across her body. However, it was during gym class that most people would notice she had a myriad of bruises, all in different stages of healing. Jeanette would shrug the injuries off, saying she had simply fallen over, but there was one girl who knew the truth. Jeanette had confided in her friend, Amber Davis, that her mother had been abusing her.
Amber told her parents who contacted DHS. However, DHS downplayed her mother’s concerns and told her that secondhand accounts of abuse were not sufficiently serious to send social workers out. Amber next told school officials in 2007 and they contacted DHS. In fact, Cascade Middle School officials had contacted DHS twice while Jeanette was still a student. “It’s hard to understand… I told. Everybody told, and nothing happened,” said Amber.
DHS officials still hadn’t publicly responded to the allegations but that was because they had convened a critical incident response team review to examine how the agency had handled the case. Jeanette’s death followed five years of critical incident reviews into child deaths and serious injuries of children who had contact with DHS. Since 2004, 21 reports had identified a number of problems, including a failure to investigate and follow up on cases, inadequate documentation and lack of ongoing assessment.
Towards the end of January, a state report was released which concluded that DHS workers had repeatedly failed to help Jeanette. According to the report, the case was not adequately investigated or referred for assessment despite the fact that there were four separate calls alleging abuse and neglect over four years. The report noted that the family was a high-risk family with a past history with a child welfare agency that included physical abuse and neglect. The agency had records of two abuse complaints in 2006, one in 2007 and another in 2009.
The first report from 2006 came when a state child abuse call taker received a report of “mental injury and neglect” involving Jeanette. Investigators looked into the allegation but couldn’t determine whether Jeanette was in danger. The report deemed this investigation was inadequate. Department policy requires that an investigator respond to such allegations within 24 hours. Instead, however, the call was classified as low-priority.
Furthermore, the investigator on the case should have interviewed witnesses about the abuse allegation before closing the case. Then in 2007 and 2009, DHS failed to refer the abuse allegations to Child Protection Services. Each of these reports were designated “closed as screening” which meant that they weren’t investigated at all. Erin Kelly-Siel, the director of the department’s Children, Adults and Families Division said that the case was tragic but rare and was not representative of the system.
Following the grim revelation, DHS announced they would be paying greater attention to child abuse reports involving older children and isolated youths. They also announced that they would require workers to make several visits to the home of a reported abuse victim within a 30 day period is that child is being raised outside of traditional community supports which Jeanette was considering she was isolated and home-schooled.
In early August, it was announced that prosecutors would not be seeking the death penalty for Richard. However, capital punishment was still on the table for Angela, who would be facing trial first.
Then in February of 2011, Angela pleaded guilty to aggravated murder. She additionally pleaded guilty to destroying or altering physical evidence in the case. It was now up to a Lane County jury to decide whether she should face the death penalty, life in prison without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Her guilty plea was not part of any plea bargain. According to her defence attorney, Steven Krasik, he had attempted to reach a deal sparing Angela her life but the Lane County District Attorney’s Office was unsparing in its refusal to consider such an agreement. Under Oregon law, the death penalty requires a unanimous decision by the jury.
After a week of painstaking jury selection, it was time for the defence and prosecution to present evidence to the panel of jury members.
The prosecution detailed how Angela went to great lengths to conceal her systematic starvation and abuse of Jeanette. According to District Attorney Erik Hasselman, Angela pulled Jeanette out of school after school officials suspected that Jeanette was being abused. Furthermore, Angela had lied to put off a state caseworker who had come out to investigate.
Dr. Daniel Davis took to the stand to go through Jeanette’s injuries. Dr. Elizabeth Hilton, who pronounced Jeanette dead at the hospital, told jurors that she had never seen a more malnourished patient or an abuse victim with so many injuries. The first responders also testified about Angela’s odd behaviour when they arrived at the scene. As Caption Sven Erik Wahlroos said: “It was one of the feelings on the back of my neck that something was absolutely not right. I wanted to run away.” According to Captain Wahlroos, it was the first time in his 18 year career that he cried after his shift.
According to forensic investigator, Traci Rose, somebody had attempted to clean the torture room before Jeanette’s was taken to hospital. However, blood was still all over the room, spattered from floor to ceiling on two walls and between tiles of parquet wood on the floor. The blood was Jeanette’s, a state police crime lab supervisor testified later.
Richard was called to testify during the sentencing hearing. He told the jury that he didn’t know that his wife was beating and starving Jeanette until a few months before her death. Richard admitted that he had a part to play in Jeanette’s death because he failed to stop the abuse or seek help for Jeanette. “I did nothing… I failed as a father,” he acknowledged. According to Richard, when Angela discovered that Jeanette was dead, she first of all suggested burying her in the backyard or in the Coast Range. He persuaded her to call his mother, Lynn, for advice. It was Richard who eventually called 911 and afterwards, he claimed that Angela wanted to flee, stating: “I did something bad, and they’re going to put me away for a very long time.”
Richard told the jury that he wasn’t aware Jeanette had been abused for so long because his job as a truck driver kept him away from the home at weeks on end. Then when he had a heart attack in July of 2009, he was home a lot more often to recuperate. He admitted that he failed to give Jeanette food or water even though they were left alone regularly while Angela went shopping or drove the other kids to school.
He acknowledged that just four days before her death, Jeanette had sought his help. She invited him into the bedroom where the abuse occurred and pointed out all of the blood as well as the weapons Angela used to beat her. “I looked at that bedroom and it was horrifying. I seen blood splattered everywhere. Jeanette told me her mom would have her strip naked and lay there directly on the floor and she would whip her… I was scared. I was terrified. I didn’t know it had gotten that far.”
Richard took the jury through the final attack on Jeanette. He described how the night before Jeanette’s death, Angela came to him upset, saying that she’d gone too far by hitting Jeanette’s head with a stick. The following morning, Jeanette was cold to the touch and was speaking incoherently “as if she had taffy in her mouth.” Instead of calling 911, Angela enlisted her younger daughter to help clean up the blood before heading out to McDonalds. At around 7PM, Angela informed Richard that Jeanette was ice cold and wouldn’t wake up.
Next to testify was Jeanette’s sister, who was now 13-years-old. She told the jury that the harsh treatment of Jeanette began as soon as Angela regained custody of her at age 7. The sister said that days before Jeanette’s death, Angela had shown her a hold on the back of Jeanette’s head and told her “if someone was stabbed in the back of the head with a branch, it would cause brain damage.” She described how by that point, Jeanette was acting “kind of strange.”
She said that Jeanette mumbled incoherently and couldn’t stand. She additionally said that both Angela and Richard had punished Jeanette by depriving her of food and water, hitting her with shoes and their fists. This statement contradicted Richard’s earlier statement that he had caused Jeanette’s death by failing to protect her but said he never injured her himself. The sister also testified that Angela would order her to gather the dog’s faeces from the back yard and would then smear them over Jeanette’s face.
Once all testimony had been heard, Angela had the opportunity to address the jury. She acknowledged that she had abused Jeanette but added: “I did not want my little girl to die.”
In closing arguments, District Attorney Hasselman reminded jurors that they had all pledged during jury selection that they would not hesitate to impose the death penalty simply because Angela is a woman. “If Jeanette Maples had been snatched by someone else and held captive in their home, if the atrocities that she experienced both psychologically and physically had been inflicted by a stranger, would any of us have a serious question if death would be the appropriate sentence? Is it somehow mitigating that her killer was her mother?” In fact, he said it aggravated the crime by taking away from Jeanette that glimmer of hope that she would be rescued by her parents.
Now, it was time for the Lane County Circuit Court Jurors to begin deliberating on whether to sentence Angela to death or to life in prison. After six hours of deliberation, the jury decided that Angela should be sentenced to death for torturing and killing Jeanette. She was the first woman in Oregon to receive a death sentence since capital punishment was restored in 1984. As the sentence was read out, Angela appeared stoic but several jurors wept.
Then in early April, Richard pleaded guilty to murder by abuse for failing to protect Jeanette. He was sentenced to Oregon’s mandatory sentence for murder by abuse: life in prison with no chance to even seek parole until 25 years. His defence attorney cited his low IQ, his inexperience making decisions for himself and severe health problems as explanations for why he did not prevent Jeanette’s death.
Attorney Gordon Mallon also asserted that Richard would never have been involved in such a crime had not met and married Angela. Richard decided not to make a statement, stating that he had trouble articulating his feelings but said that he regretted failing to save the girl he allegedly considered his daughter.
Following the verdict, Portland lawyer, David Paul, filed a wrongful death and personal injury suit against the Oregon Department of Human Services for $1.5 million in damages on behalf of Jeanette’s estate. The suit alleged that state officials could have prevented her death had caseworkers exercised reasonable care in responding to reports that Jeanette was being abused. The suit was filed on behalf of Anthony, Jeanette’s father, who had not seen his daughter in almost a decade. He was seeking damages for loss of his daughter’s “society, love and companionship.”
Much of the community found this quite inappropriate and thought that if anybody should receive compensation for suffering, it was Jeanette’s siblings or Lynne, who had reported the abuse. As a matter of fact, Anthony hadn’t even bothered to come to his daughter memorial service.
In March of 2012, the state of Oregon agreed to pay $1.5 million to Anthony. $500,000 of that went to his attorney in attorney’s fees while Anthony received the rest. Many had hoped that Anthony would consider establishing a trust fund to meet the future needs to Jeanette’s siblings who were in foster care. Another hope was that he would give it to the Jeanette Maples Project in Lane County that were working to promote awareness of child abuse. Anthony kept the money for himself.
In July of 2019, it was announced that Senior Circuit Court Jude Burdette Pratt announced that he would be throwing out Angela’s murder conviction because her attorneys failed to adequately represent or advise her during her trial. Defence attorneys Steven Krasik and Kenneth Hadley made the highly unusual move of encouraging Angela to plead guilty when the prosecution had not agreed to drop the death penalty as a possible punishment.
The judge ruled that Angela should have a new trial. Then in August 2020, a settlement was made which ruled Angela should serve life in prison without parole.
The grim death of Jeanette Maples defied any attempt at understanding. The murder trials did very little to answer the baffling question as to Jeanette was singled out. As she stood in that torture position, she must have spent hours upon hours wondering why it was only her as she watched the rest of her family eat at the dinner table, watch TV, play in the garden, go trick or treating and celebrate birthdays.
While there had been several reports to DHS over the years, Jeanette lived her final moments in such obscurity and isolation that nobody outside of her family could have fathomed that she was being slowly tortured to death. The most chilling aspect of this case, however, is the notion that it could have been prevented, that Jeanette could have been saved, if just one person acted on those reports.
 The Register-Guard, 17 February, 2011 – “Stepfather Testifies of Horrors Inflicted on Eugene Teenager”
 The Register-Guard, 11 December, 2009 – “Couple Arrested in Death of Teenage Girl by Abuse”
 The Oregonian , 3 January, 2010 – “Cries for Help Got No Answer”
 The Register-Guard, 24 February, 2011 – “McAnulty to Jury: Sorry”
 The Register-Guard, 20 April, 2010 – “Death Prompts Changes”
 The Orgeonian, 11 December, 2009 – “Relative of Slain Girl Called State Abuse Hot Line”
 The Associated Press, 28 January, 2010 – “State Failed to Help Abused Oregon Teen”
 The Oregonian, 31 August, 2011 – “Suit Claims State Failed to Prevent Teen’s Murder”
 The Register-Guard, 11 February, 2011 – “Prosecutor Describes Abuse”
 The Register-Guard, 22 December, 2009 – “Family, Neighbours Shed Light on Murder”
 The Associated Press, 12 December, 2009 – “Oregon Man Had Not Seen Slain Daughter for Years”
 The Ashland Tidings, 17 December, 2009 – “Mother, Stepfather Indicted in Eugen Teen’s Death”
 The Register-Guard, 29 January, 2010 – “Closed at Screening”
 The Associated Press, 1 February, 2011 – “Oregon Woman Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Murder”
 The Register-Guard, 18 February, 2011 – “Sister Fills in Disturbing Details”
 The Register-Guard, 25 February, 2011 – “Child Killer Gets Death”
 The Register-Guard, 12 February, 2011 – “Teen’s Life of Abuse Detailed to Jurors”
 The Register-Guard, 5 April, 2011 – “Stepfather Pleads Guilty”