This is the house that greed built.
A nice 3100+ square foot two-story house, in Port St. Lucie. It’s worth about $358,000.
62-year-old Judith Leekin, the owner of this property, also owns a house in Sanderson, Florida that is worth about $242,000 and in 2002 she sold a house in Port St. Lucie under one of her five aliases – Judith Johnson.
Defrauding the government must be pretty good work, if you can get it.
This is the woman that tied up the teenagers that took care of the mentally disabled adults who were tied with zip ties and were not fed in the house that greed built.
On the fourth of July, police came across a malnourished girl who appeared to be about 15 years old wandering around a grocery store in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was taken to a shelter and questioned.
The girl claimed that she had been abandoned by her mother, Judith, who had adopted her 13 years ago. Judith had told her that they were going to go to an amusement park and ride some rides. Apparently they never made it, and Judith just left her on the side of the road and drove off, after telling the girl that she’d be killed if she told anyone where she had come from and what was happening there.
She said that Judith never let her go outside, see a doctor, or go to school.
Judith kept her restrained with zip ties daily and there were scars on her wrists to prove it. If Judith left the house, the girl would be tied to one of her brothers or sisters to keep them from wandering. Until Judith returned, they weren’t able to use the bathroom. Since Judith was gone for long periods of time, they often wet themselves.
Wait wait wait…brothers or sisters? How many people was Judith accused of abusing?
Well, Judith Leekin evidently had five teenagers and four mentally challenged adults that she “took care of.” By taking care of, we mean forcing them to sleep in a small hallway on the floor with one sheet and pillow – no blankets. Daily threats were made, warning the children that they would be shot or decapitated if they went outside or talked to anyone.
Food was scarce. All they were fed was Ramen.
They all had extensive scarring on their hands, wrists and arms. Some were burned. One was blind.
When police arrived, Judith met them at the door and claimed that the girl had run away a year earlier. The police, seeing just one child present and nothing immediately wrong with the house, left.
Then they came back with a search warrant.
A small hallway in the house, like the girl had claimed she had been kept in, was found. It had three doors, which all locked from the outside with deadbolts. Handcuffs, zip ties and other assorted items were found. The children, who had been hidden away during the previous visit, were found.
But Judith Leekin’s lawn was so well-kept!
Many neighbors in the subdivision explained how they really never thought there was anyone in the house at all, except for a boy who was out every day picking weeds out of the grass.
“He looked like a little China man picking weeds out of the grass,” neighbor Lisa Schubert said. “He was so thorough. I mean, he worked all day. We had no clue what was going on inside.”
“He was kind of like a slave,” neighbor Fritz Lang said. “There was no grass allowed to be on those lava rocks. Instead of getting the lawn man to blow it the other way, he had to go out with sheets and cover it with lava rocks. It was strange, strange.”
Police who are investigating Judith Leekin say that these children were adopted by Leekin, who used different names to confuse the New York Department of Children’s Services. With all the money she got for “taking care” of them, she was able to afford quite a few nice things.
Like the house.
Apparently, if someone did adopt this many children in the state of New York, and if they were classified as special needs children, they could make about $180,000 a year. Special needs foster kids are worth $55 a day, according to New York, and you don’t even have to live in the city to get your check.
After a thorough examination, the four adults (three men, 20, 23 and 26, and one 27-year-old woman) displayed a myriad of issues. They all had scarring on their wrists and showed extensive signs of neglect and abuse. One said that he had been with Judith for over 20 years. None of them had ever been in school. None of them had ever seen a doctor or a dentist. One was described as being brainwashed. They were all starving.
Police also found a camera system that Judith Leekin used to watch for the police.
Judith Leekin faces four counts of aggravated abuse of an elderly or disabled adult. She also faces five counts of aggravated child abuse, one count of witness tampering and one count of possessing a false driver license.
Judith Leekin adopted 11 children in New York City under four different names, and moved with them a decade ago to Florida. She pled guilty in May of 2008 in New York to a fraudulent adoption scheme that netted her $1.68 million in government subsidies, money that prosecutors say she used to support a lavish lifestyle.
Ms. Leekin has admitted deceiving child welfare officials but has denied abusing or neglecting the children.
In court papers, the children’s lawyers provided a detailed account of the children’s mistreatment. The oldest known victim, who was 5 when he was placed with Ms. Leekin, was a “sweet autistic young man” who spent a lifetime being hit on the head with an iron, regularly beaten for any transgression and tied up at night like a prisoner.
A girl, who was about 7 when she was placed with Ms. Leekin, was profoundly retarded and autistic, and remains unable to describe what happened to her, the lawyers wrote. Her siblings have described her “pulling her decaying teeth from her own mouth, the result of a childhood of no dental care.”
Yet another child, also profoundly retarded and autistic, was placed with Judith Leekin when he was 5. According to lawyers, his disabilities also prevent him from expressing what happened to him but his trauma is evident: He is missing teeth, and he is now blind.
According to written statements:
His siblings remember a time when he could see but explain that he was allowed to stare at the sun through a magnifying glass until he lost his vision.
Judith Leekin was slapped with an 11 year prison sentence on the 15th of July, 2008 – given three more years than prosecutors agreed to in their plea deal made in May of 2008. Judith Leekin was ordered to forfeit $1.68 million in assets, including her two Florida homes. Any recovered money will go to a trust designed to provide care for the 11 children she fostered, including one who has been missing for five years.
The courts aren’t quite done with Judith Leekin – she faces another 120 years in prison on Florida abuse charges.
As she was read her sentence, Judith Leekin wiped away tears and was very, very sad:
I’m sorry. I’m willing to surrender all my assets. I love my children and I miss them.