The Hyres, Chapter Two: 

Gerald, Bonnie, Kelsey and Nathan Hyre


NOTE:  Almost all the information contained here is compiled from newspaper accounts and court documents, rather than any direct contact. The Cases


    The morning of Oct. 3, 2002 started out much like any morning for the Case family.  Now that Anguel was part of our lives, our time was structured around his schedule.  Anguel was at preschool and I was home from work while Daniel had run out to cover an event for the newspaper he worked for.

    As soon as Daniel pulled out of the driveway, I made coffee with the computer on upstairs.  My morning’s stillness was interrupted by the ring of the telephone and before I could answer it, our computer’s fax mechanism clicked on.  I walked upstairs and heard the hiss of a fax being received. 

    This was unusual.  Who would be sending us a fax at 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning?  When the hiss of the modem ceased, I clicked on the “faxes received” icon and saw the fax had been sent from the Ponishes. Since the easiest way for them to share information about their experience was by fax, I thought she was sending us more documentation about their adoption.

    But the one-page fax was nothing to do with Natasha.  It was an article clipped from the Cleveland Plain Dealer

    I hit “Print” on our printer and waited for it to warm up. What was this all about? 

    As soon as it came through, I saw the sensational caption: DAD CHARGED OVER ADOPTED BABY’S SPINAL INJURY.

    The Ponishes had circled a few phrases which I quickly glanced at. Through Building Blocks Adoption Services, Inc., a private Medina County adoption agency…said Richard Marco, Hubbard’s attorney.”

    Oh. My. God. What horror had befallen another BBAS kid?  Which child had paid the price for being placed by BBAS/Amrex?  Which family?

    This is that article that shocked me into stillness.



October 3, 2002

Martin Stolz

Plain Dealer Reporter


Akron – Kelsey Hyre, a 26-month-old girl adopted from Russia, may be

paralyzed for life, and her adoptive father faces criminal charges for the



Akron police yesterday arrested Gerald B. Hyre, 32, of Akron.  He was

charged with felonious assault and felony child endangering for Kelsey’s

Sept. 26 spinal injury.


Hyre told police that he picked Kelsey up with his hands and that he

accidentally dropped her from about five feet.  After the injury, Hyre’s

wife, Bonnie Hyre, 34 returned from work and drove Kelsey in her car to

Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron.  The Hyres did not call 9-1-1.


Kelsey broke two bones in her mid-lower back and completely dislocated

 her spinal column, said Dr. R. Daryl Steiner, director of the hospital’s

Children At Risk Evaluation Center. Kelsey underwent surgery to realign

her spine but has not sensation below the waist, an untreatable condition

unlikely to ever change, he said.


The injuries were too severe to have been caused by getting dropped, Steiner said.


“We see these injuries very rarely, and only with very violent events,

like automobile accidents,” he said.  “This was not an accident.”


Hyre, who works for a supermarket chain, has no criminal record.  But police

yesterday searched the Hyre’s southwest Akron home, said Lt. Gerald Kelly

of Akron’s Juvenile Bureau.


The Hyres adopted Kelsey and a 30 month old boy, also from Russia, in

January through Building Blocks Adoption Services, Inc., a private Medina

County adoption agency.  Denise Hubbard, the agency owner, said the required

“home study” of the Hyres’ parental fitness had been conducted by another

state-licensed agency.


Adoption agencies generally do not make follow-up visits to adoptive families

or prepare post-adoption reports unless required to do so by the native country

of the adopted child, said Richard Marco, Hubbard’s attorney.


Kelsey’s 30 month old brother has been placed in foster care, said a Summit

 County Children Services Board official.


Hyre, in custody at the Summit County Jail, is scheduled to be arraigned

this morning in Akron Municipal Court.

    Holy E. Crud!  I sat stunned, yet not entirely surprised things had come to this for a BBAS family – especially first-time parents that had adopted two children under two from Russia.

    The Plain Dealer’s story, however, didn’t cover it enough for me. If it’s one thing we knew, it was the newspapers around Cleveland. I knew that the Akron newspaper, the Beacon Journal, might have more about the case so I checked out their website.  Sure enough, I found a more extensive story.

    I learned here that both children in the family showed signs of previous severe injury, the same broken bone in the same foot, that the doctors said was “peculiar” though not an indicator of severe abuse. Mrs. Hyre would not be charged, the police said (this later changed). Neither had a police record or any previous experience with the local child-protection agency.

    Unlike the Plain Dealer, though, there was no mention of Building Blocks.


Gerald B. Hyre Charged With Endangerment, assault; adopted girl paralyzed


By Stephanie Warsmith 

Beacon Journal Staff Writer


An Akron father has been arrested on a charge of severing the spine of his

26-month-old Russian adoptive daughter.


Doctors say Kelsey M. Hyre is paralyzed below her belly button – and will

likely never walk again.  They say her injury is rare, but sometimes seen in

victims of head-on collisions wearing only lap belts.


“This is something that takes a tremendously violent event to cause,” said Dr.

R. Daryl Steiner of Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron.


Gerald B. Hyre, 32, told doctors and police that Kelsey had suffered the injury

when he accidentally dropped her Sept. 25 at his Kenmore home.


But Steiner said the explanation is inconsistent with the girl’s severe injury. 

He said the most likely explanation is that she was slammed against something.


“It’s like when you take a stick and hold it by both ends and slam it down on a

hard, firm surface,” Steiner said.


Detectives and doctors are examining medical records to determine if either Kelsey

or Nathan, the 30-month-old son the Hyres adopted from Russia, suffered previous



Steiner said both children had suffered fractured feet – in the same bone and the

same foot.  While the doctor said the foot injuries are not necessarily indicative

of abuse, he called them “peculiar.”


Hyre has been charged with felonious assault and felony child endangering.  He

turned himself in to police Wednesday afternoon.


Hyre and his wife, Bonnie, adopted Kelsey and Nathan in January through a private

agency in Medina.  Nathan has been removed from the home and placed with his

maternal grandmother.


“This is unbelievable that parents would go to the trouble to adopt children from a

foreign country – and then this happens,” said Connie Humble, a deputy, executive

 director of administrative services for the Summit County Children Services Board.


Police say Hyre was watching Kelsey and Nathan on the afternoon of Sept. 25

at the family’s home in the 1800 block of 18th Street Southwest.  He called his wife

at work at her job at Walgreens, and she came home and took Kelsey to Children’s

Hospital Medical Center of Akron.


After examining Kelsey, hospital officials called police.


Hyre gave detectives two explanations for Kelsey’s injury –including that he dropped

the girl on the rail of her crib.  Neither account jibed with the diagnosis by Kelsey’s



“The history of the injury presented by the adoptive father was not consistent

with the medical professionals’ opinion of what happened,” Akron police Lt. Sylvia

Trundle said.


Detectives are unsure of a motive, Trundle said.


Officers searched Hyre’s home Wednesday afternoon.

Hyre, who works for Giant Eagle, will be arraigned at 9 a.m. today in Akron Municipal



Police say Bonnie Hyre is not expected to be charged.


The Children Services Board has not previously been involved with the Hyre family. 

The agency is now working with police and doctors, Humble said.


“It just breaks my heart for these children,” she said.


Kelsey, who will be in CBS custody when she is released from the hospital, was listed in

satisfactory condition at Children’s Wednesday afternoon.


Steiner said the girl underwent surgery Saturday to bring a piece of her spine

back into alignment.  But he said there is no known medical procedure to fuse

a severed spine.


“There is no way for that cord to repair itself,” the doctor said.


Kelsey will remain at Children’s for several days and will then be transferred to a

rehabilitation center. Steiner said she will probably be confined to a wheelchair for

the rest of her life.


Despite her ordeal, Steiner said Kelsey is “in great spirits” and called her “a real cutie.” 

When he visited her Wednesday afternoon, she was smiling and playing.


“Her legs will be paralyzed, but at this point, her personality is bubbly and wonderful,”

he said.

    I found links to these articles online and I forwarded them to everybody I could, including Linda Saridakis at the ODJFS. Not to mention the high quality staff members of Denise Hubbard, Wendy Stamper and Sandra Harding at BBAS.

    After the initial excitement and shock wore off, I sat back and reflected. There was absolutely no glee to be had in this situation.  But this couple sounded familiar to me.

    Then it hit me.  The article said the Hyres had brought Nathan and Kesley home in January – the same month I had been in Moscow.  Kelsey would have been 17 months old, Nathan 22 months. Both of them toddlers – two under two.

    The couple at Sheremetyevo airport my friend and I had spoken to in January 2002. Had they been the Hyres? Could it have been them? There was no way of finding out, but the parallels between the couple in Moscow and the Hyres was glaring. Both were from Akron, both adopting a boy and a girl under two, both using a local Akron, Ohio agency.  What were the odds that they were one and the same?

    My mind drifted to our meeting in January.  A few things that troubled me then resurfaced.  I hadn’t given that couple in Moscow much thought until I read about Kelsey.

    If this couple were the Hyres, they had failed miserably to provide for these two children. Yet, they too had been let down by those they trusted and paid to adopt their children.   The husband and wife I had seen in Moscow had been scared and shell-shocked.  They didn’t know what was going on or aware they were willing participants in the murky game of place the kids?

    Kelsey’s injury brought into focus the reality some of issues blatantly ignored when we adopt post-institutionalized children.  Issues of accountability, health, awareness, beliefs, hopes, and most of all ignorance.

    I put myself in Gerald Hyre’s shoes.  I imagined myself at wits end with Anguel (I’ve had those days with him).  I recalled two times where I had come close to losing my temper when he was out of control.  I then remembered of those two times, before I took out my anger on him, I walked out of the house.  Literally walked out of my house and let him and myself calm down.  Better to remove yourself from the situation than to have him end up like Kelsey – or worse – like David Polreis, Viktor Matthey, Jabob Lindorff, Zachary Higier and Maria Bennett. 

    We are all capable of hurting or killing our children, but those of us who know that walk away or defuse the situation before we severely hurt or even kill children.  Bringing a child into our homes is something all of us has thought through, and hopefully, the lot of us knew it would not be all sunshine and kisses all the time.

    Gerald Hyre didn’t walk away on Sept. 25, 2002.  Perhaps he thought he could hurt Kelsey, just little to get her to shut up.  Perhaps it is something he had done her (and Nathan?) just gave her a good shove into her crib when she was wailing.  It had shut her up before, so he thought it would shut her up again. (Later, it would be reported that Gerald had once punched a hole in a wall in a fit of anger).

    Aside from the glaring facts of the case – that Kelsey would no longer walk for the rest of her days, that Kelsey and Nathan had been removed from their parents, that a family so recently formed out of love and hope had been torn apart – other issues not discussed were screaming out at me.  Issues that only a fellow adoptive parent and somebody who’d been following Russian adoption as closely as we did since 1999 would have picked up.

    Both Bonnie and Gerald Hyre held what we would consider solid middle-class jobs.  Gerald had worked as a stocker at Giant Eagle, a supermarket, for 12 years, maybe a union job.  Bonnie worked at an undisclosed position at Walgreens. If it was a local store or a local headquarters remain unknown.

    I work in a super-proletarian field and my husband is a SAHD. In order to finance our adoptions, we cashed out a mutual fund and asked Daniel’s father and my parents for financial assistance to cover additional adoption-related expenses.  Financial assistance in the final amount of $15,000, none of which they have ever asked us to repay.

    I don’t imagine either Bonnie or Gerald Hyre came from the upper-middle class for them to afford Nathan and Kelsey’s adoption. Later, we learned, the adoptions had cost them a cool $32,000 ... close to my original guess of $35,000.  My mind again re-played the faces of the couple I met in Moscow. 

    If the Hyres were that same couple, without a doubt those people were not upper middle class. Those two people looked like they’d scrimped, saved, maxed out their credit cards, took out a home equity line of credit and then borrowed against their retirement funds to finance their adoption (all things people have done). In fact, the Akron Beacon Journal later reported, they had indeed maxed out credit cards and borrowed from family and friends.

    Gerald Hyre used a court-appointed defense attorney.  People with means hire their own attorney and fight it to the hilt, much like the Mattheys in New Jersey did in their son’s manslaughter case (although it ultimately cost them their home).  If this couple had the money, he would not have had to be represented at the state’s expense.

    Medina isn’t far from Akron. The Hyres may have known somebody who had adopted from BBAS in the past, or perhaps they had attended an adoption seminar held in the area, held by an adoption entity such as A Child’s Waiting. Stung by their infertility travails, they were probably hopeful their dreams of parenthood would come true through adoption.  They wanted a little boy and girl so badly – a little boy and girl who would resemble them and whom they could love and raise.

    We tried to confirm, in April 2003, whether or not A Child’s Waiting was the Hyre’s homestudy agency, but it was inconclusive. I called ACW’s offices and spoke to Jennifer Marando.

    She, for professional as well as ethical reasons, could not confirm or deny that ACW had completed the Hyre’s homestudy.  It was nobody’s business if ACW had completed the homestudy or not, yet I do question if the post placements had been performed – and if how the children had acted toward Gerald when the social worker visited. (Of course, as Daniel points out, if she hadn’t done the Hyres’ homestudy and, more importantly, their postplacements, she probably wouldn’t have hesitated to say so).

    In the newspaper accounts that followed, the homestudy agency was never mentioned, yet that couple in Moscow told me “A Child’s Waiting out of Akron” when I asked them which agency they used.

    At length we got confirmation, when we found the court docket from the case online and read it. Among the documents listed in the index, though not viewable, were the subpoenas issued by both sides. The prosecutors had gone over the Hyres’ lives very thoroughly, even asking for personnel records from both their employers to, one imagines, see if either of them had gotten into any violent incidents at work.

    Building Blocks was on the list. So was A Child’s Waiting and Jennifer Marando.

    There were no other adoption-services agencies. It seemed pretty obvious to us that ACW had done both the pre-adoption homestudy and, more importantly, any postplacements.

    Judging from the Ponishes’ experience at the hard sell they received from ACW about Building Blocks Adoption Service {URL HERE}, that great local agency, if the Hyres had first gone to a seminar thrown by ACW and perhaps had met up with a local happy BBAS client, they were gone. Once Denise Hubbard laid into them with her sales pitch of healthy, happy kids, fast adoptions from Russia, closeness of her agency, dreams come true for your prince and princess, God’s orphaned children …they were goners.  I’d wager they did not bother interviewing other adoption agencies before they paid their BBAS non-refundable program fee. Just a hunch on my part.

    I question the wisdom of allowing the Hyres to adopt two unrelated children under two.  Had they been fully told the realities of adopting such young children – the “artificial twinning” one hears about in international adoption circles?  Were they told that the children might well be a handful once they came home – that these children would be having to deal with not only their own issues but their parent’s issues of being first time parents?  Were they informed of the amazing transition these kids go through once they are home?  The transition magnified by two.

    My thoughts again drifted to Anguel’s homecoming. I recall being out of my normal element – that little boy needed us to be there for him. He needed stability to help him through what he was going through, and if I had another little boy at the same time, I’d have been way in over my head.  Somebody who adopted two from his orphanage at the same time asked me during a telephone conversation: “Does Anguel act like a monster sometimes? Because when we came home with our boys, they ganged up on me and played us really well.”

    Others who have adopted two under two at the same time report it was a tough transition the first few months, but eventually it came together.  With time.

    But what if the Hyres had not been fully prepared?  What if they had actually believed the propaganda from the agency, the homestudy agency and their fellow adoptive parents about the kids?

    Since the agency was Building Blocks, we knew the children were Amrex kids. Again I thought of the couple from Moscow. They said they were traveling to Blagoveshchensk. 

    The media reports never mentioned which region the children had come from, but assuming it was the baby home in Blagoveshchensk, those people had been ill-prepared for medical and nutritional issues the children were going to have.  Not to mention the likely mental issues we know at least three of the kids had from one group in the Baby Home.

    There was the over-riding condition of rickets.  Too many of the children from the Baby Home in Blagoveshchensk have rickets.  Did Kelsey have rickets?  Did Nathan?  What had been done to supplement their diets with Vitamin D to counteract the rickets?  Of course, to my knowledge, rickets won’t cause a severed spine.  A broken leg perhaps, but not a broken spine.

    Were there other feeding issues at stake?  Did either Kelsey or Nathan eat well?  Were they fed well?  Did they have giardia?  Had they been exposed to the chicken pox while there?  What undiagnosed medical issues did these kids have – were they FAS/FAE?

    Interestingly, when we obtained some of the papers in the case later brought against Bonnie Hyre, we read this in a letter from her lawyer to the prosecutor:

Per your request, I am enclosing the medical records of Nathan Hyre. The first record is from Children’s Hospital. [He] was seen there on August 27, 2002 (less than one month before Kelsey was injured).

Nathan was seen at Children’s Hospital because of sores in his mouth. The sores were described as “recurrent.” The doctor notes that the sores had healed more fully with Benadryl/Maalox. However, [they] were aggravated with thumb sucking. (As I explained to you on the 18th, Bonnie was treating Nathan with Benadryl/Maalox per doctor’s instructions).

I am also enclosing a copy of Nathan’s medical records that I received from his primary care physician, Dr. Jami Scanlon. By my count, Nathan was seen by [her] over eleven (11) times. These records will also reflect that Nathan was current with respect to his immunizations and screenings. This evidence clearly demonstrates that medical attention was sought for the sores in Nathan’s mouth and Ms. Hyre did not by any stretch avoid taking her son to the doctor for any reason.

    Recurrent sores? Eleven visits to the doctor in eight months? These kids did not develop those problems in Akron. They brought them from Russia. If they came from Blagoveschensk, you can almost bet on it.

    What about mental and behavorial issues?  How much did Kelsey scream?  Did she demand attention at all times? Did she go to her mother more than her father?  Was she slightly RAD? (Since she has bonded so well with her new family, it does not appear likely).

    Did Nathan act in the same way, perhaps joining in with his sister when she was on a roll?  Did this chaotic behavior eat into Gerald Hyre day in and day out? Did it perhaps remind him of his possibly failing marriage and the lifelong consequences of what he had agreed to do to save it? Did he take out this anger on them?

    Take a moment to think how easy it is again to lose your temper. Imagine again knowing you are going to lose it – and follow through.  This is what happened to Gerald Hyre.

    Another huge problem for me regarding this case was the lack of any follow-up. Since they were BBAS/Amrex clients, the Hyres had to have paid $800 “in escrow” to Amrex to fulfill their postplacement obligations.  Since they had been home 10 months when Kelsey was injured, at least one post-placement report should have been completed.

    If it was done, who had done it and what did it say?  Had it been forwarded on to Russia?  Again, that is something we do not have any information about.

    We were determined to stay on top of Gerald Hyre’s case and its outcome. I even went to the extent of calling Gerald Hyre’s attorney to find out more, and we talked for a bit, but nothing ever came of it.

    In the following months, we kept tabs on the Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal’s websites as to the outcome of the case.

    A report on Oct. 4, 2002 from The Akron Beacon Journal further elucidated Building Blocks’ role in the adoption and quoted ... Richard J. Marco, Jr.

Hyre’s arrest this week came as a surprise for officials with Building Blocks Adoption Service, Inc.,

the Medina agency through which they adopted Kelsey…and Nathan…


Denise Hubbard, the agency’s executive director, started the business after she adopted a Russian girl.


“She’s as upset about this as you get,” said Richard Marco, the agency’s attorney.


Hyre, who has worked as a stocker for Giant Eagle for 12 years, pleaded not guilt in Akron Municipal

Court to charges of felonious assault and felony child endangering.  He is being held at the Summit

County Jail on a $10,000 bond.


The 32 year old told police and doctors that Kelsey was accidentally injured Sept. 25 in the family’s

18th Street home.  Police say he gave two different accounts, including that he dropped the girl on

the rail of her crib…


The Hyres adopted Kelsey and Nathan in January.  While officials with Building Blocks were unwilling

 to discuss details of the Hyres’ adoption – because of confidentiality guidelines – they did discuss the

 process that adoptive parents must undergo.


Would-be parents must first have a licensed social worker perform a home study, which includes a

review of their criminal history, financial situation and other personal details.  Anyone with a felony

 or child abuse conviction is ineligible, Marco said.


Next, the parents must meet several standards required by both this country and the country from

which they hope to adopt.


Marco said these steps are designed to make sure prospective parents are capable of caring for a child.


“We don’t want some guy with an abuse conviction to be adopting a child,” he said.


Building Blocks facilitates the adoption of orphans in Russia, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Romania

and Cambodia.  The agency places about 60 children a year, Marco said.


Adopting a Russian child can take up to a year and cost between $9,000 and $15,000 – not including travel

expenses, Marco said.


The adoption agency will not be involved with the future placement of Kelsey and Nathan, who are both

now in the custody of the Summit County Children Services Board….

    I guffawed upon reading Scumbag Marco’s comments.  The parents are better qualified and screened to adopt than the agency personnel is to run the adoption agency.  The parents have to meet higher standards than the “professionals” running the adoption agency – two years of nursing school, a semester or two of office management and a few years as a clerk at a local hospital is such a good basis for being qualified in the adoption field.

    I wondered if Building Blocks was going to provide any financing for Kelsey’s medical care.  Or were they going to let the State of Ohio provide the care like they had done with Natasha Ponish?

    When I sent the articles on to Linda Wright, she wrote me and said she’s sworn she’d seen a “Kelsey” up on the BBAS website under “BBAS Kids”. A few days later, I checked and could not find a photo of a Kelsey anywhere on the site.

    Things happened fast. According to court papers we found later, the Akron police searched the Hyre house on Oct. 2. Bonnie Hyre was quite cooperative, which would become an issue later.

    Two weeks later, Gerald Hyre was indicted on charges that he had injured both Kelsey and Nathan, due to the oddity of the same broken bones in each of the children’s feet, on top of Kelsey’s paralysis.

    Nothing more happened until the New Year. On Jan. 9, Bonnie filed for divorce on grounds of incompatibility.

    We heard nothing more until March 14. Gerald Hyre pled guilty and was bound over for sentencing a month later in Summit County Common Pleas Court before Judge Jane Bond.

    By then, Kelsey was in a private foster home and Nathan had been placed with Bonnie’s parents.  Kelsey was, for all intents and purposes, now a ward of the state, in custody herself of Children’s Services (the second such result of a BBAS Russian “adoption,” you may recall).

    When it came time to sentence Gerald Hyre, Judge Bond threw the book at him. The Beacon Journal reported on April 15, 2003 that she had been “moved to tears” while Kelsey’s story had been told in court. It was revealed that the injuries had occurred when had “slammed her on her back” for “crying too much.”

    Gerald’s stepmother asked the judge for leniency. Her stepson was not a “monster,” she said, lamenting Kelsey’s injuries as “a tragic accident.”

    His attorneys argued for a lighter sentence with less time as he had no prior criminal record and had never been accused of child abuse.

    But neither emotional nor legal arguments would move the court.

    Judge Bond sentenced him to 16 years in prison, the maximum for felonious assault and endangering a child. She said it appeared Kelsey had been abused “from the time she landed in America.”

    “The harm you have caused to this child and to her future is so great, that no single prison term can adequately reflect that,” she told Gerald, her “voice cracking with emotion.”

    She read to the court a statement Gerald had made where he admitted, “I couldn’t get her to stop crying.  I lost control.” 

    Bonnie Hyre did not attend her husband’s sentencing. It was revealed later that at that time she was the focus of an on-going police investigation. Gerald had been contesting the divorce, but in June before trial began he changed his mind and it was granted.

    He also appealed his sentence on the grounds that the judge considered more than just his single act of assaulting Kelsey to which he was pleading guilty but the prior abuse as well; and that she failed to make an adequate finding in her ruling that his crime was severe enough to warrant a maximum sentence. The appeal is still pending as of September.

    Kelsey’s foster family represented her in the courtroom that day. They were a foster family who specialized in providing care for physically disabled children.  The foster mother told the court in a prepared statement that Kelsey required round the clock care and had to wear a leg brace, had had 67 visits to the doctor since being paralyzed and had “screamed constantly and refused any effort to hold or comfort her.”  Kelsey’s foster mother said Kelsey displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, was “distrustful of adults and seemingly afraid of everyone who approached her.”

    During one of the 67 doctor’s visits, she had been shown a photo of Gerald Hyre, covered her face and screamed out, “No daddy!”

    Nathan continued to live with Bonnie’s mother where Bonnie was able to visit with him regularly.

    The next month, May 2003, Summit County prosecutors began to circle around Bonnie Hyre.