Not Rescued 2011, at age 7
Note: The following account has been prepared from press reports, personal interviews, trial transcripts, and other public records.
An Anchorage jury found Jessica Beagley, 36, guilty of one count of misdemeanor child abuse on August 24, 2011. She faced up to US$10,000 in fines and a year in prison for subjecting her small son Kristoff, 7, to abusive punishments.
Beagley gained national attention when a film showing her subjecting her adopted son to harsh punishments was aired on the “Dr. Phil Show.” Beagley had her 10-year-old older daughter film her making the boy hold hot sauce in his mouth and then putting him into a cold shower.
The press coverage of this story often expressed sympathy with Beagley; her husband Gary, an Anchorage police officer, claimed Kristoff suffers from “Reactive Attachment Disorder” (RAD) and thus exhibits extremely difficult behaviors. Most, if not all, of the media accounts used the unrecognized definition of RAD which is commonly employed by Attachment Therapists. However, teachers testified that the boy’s behavior at school was normal for his age.
Psychologist Stephen Mailloux diagnosed Kristoff with “RAD” and attention deficit disorder after seeing him February 24, 2011. Mailloux, who is currently treating the boy, testified that children with RAD lack empathy and that normal discipline doesn’t work. Therapist Chantal Cohen, MA, LMFT, of the Alaska Child Trauma Center at Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, also testifying on behalf of the defense, claimed “RAD kids in particular intuitively find the one button that’s intolerable to you and then they smack it really hard” and that children with this disorder are terrors at home while being well behaved at school.
The judge handed down a suspended sentence to Beagley (with three years probation), stating that he thought her harsh treatment of son, was a one-time event. However, the film that aired on the “Dr. Phil Show” suggests that the boy was familiar with the specific punishments of hot saucing and cold showers, and moreover, that he lied in order avoid those punishments.
Russian authorities are disturbed by both the treatment of this Russian adoptee and the decision not to remove him from his adoptive home. Kristoff and his twin were adopted from Russia in 2008 at the age of five.
“Dr. Phil Show: Mommy Confessions,” 17 Nov 2010.
“Abusive mom on the Dr. Phil Show”
- “Russia not satisfied by U.S. angry mom sentence,” Reuters, 30 Aug 2011.
- “‘Hot sauce mom’ gets 3 years probation: Is TV to blame for extreme behavior?” by Sarah Anne Hughes, Washington Post blog, 30, Aug 2011.
- “Alaska mom who punished son with hot sauce gets probation,” by Stephen M Silverman, People, 30 Aug 2011.
- “Beagley will serve no jail time,” from Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, 29 Aug 2011.
- “Hot Sauce Mom was on a mission,” by Scott Christiansen with reporting from Anna Vernaya, Anchorage Press, 24 Aug 2011.
- “Alaska’s ‘Hot Sauce Mom’ Jessica Beagley convicted of child abuse,” CBS News, 24 Aug 2011.
- “‘Hot sauce' mum faces jail for child abuse,” NINEMSN, 24 Aug 2011.
- “Jessica Beagley, Alaska woman, convicted of child abuse after squirting hot sauce into adopted son’s mouth,” by Mary Pemberton, Huffington Post, 23 Aug 2011.
- “Closing statements given in Beagley child abuse trial,” by Ashton Goodell, KTUU, 22 Aug 2011.
- “State decided to leave punished boy in home,” Anchorage Daily News, 20 Aug 2011.