SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — Local authorities said Monday they haven't been able to question a Tennessee woman who returned her adopted 7-year-old son to Russia, where authorities threatened to suspend all child adoptions by U.S. families.
Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce said at a news conference that an attorney representing Torry Hansen said the 33-year-old woman refuses to talk to authorities unless a charge is filed. An adoption agency assigned to check on the family said officials there haven't been able to contact her since late March.
The boy, Artyom Savelyev, flew unaccompanied to Moscow last week with a note from Hansen that said she no longer wanted to adopt him because he has psychological problems.
"This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues," the letter said. "I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues. ...
Boyce said the U.S. State Department knew of no federal laws that had been broken, so it was on his department to determine whether charges could be filed. He is requesting medical information from Russian authorities about the boy and any records that allege the boy was abused while in Tennessee.
"Nothing is simple about this," Boyce said. "I haven't found anybody that knows them well. I don't know how long they've lived in this county."
A statement released by Adoption Assistance, Inc. said the child appeared to be adjusting and the mother was enthusiastic during a visit by a social worker in January. But by late March, the agency has been unable to get in touch with her.
"Our agency worked diligently to locate the mother, including e-mails and calls to the client's mother, with no success," the statement said.
Torry's mother, Nancy Hansen, has said the child's violent episodes – which culminated in a threat to burn the family's home to the ground – terrified the family.
The agency said that part of their services includes providing families with education on issues like attachment, bonding, behavioral issues and behaviors associated with institutionalized children.
"If this mother would have contacted us when the adjustment problems began, we would have worked with her on the issues or arranged alternative placement," the agency said.
This and other cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported prominently. Russian main TV networks ran extensive reports on the latest incident in their main evening news shows.
Any possible adoption freeze could affect hundreds of American families. Last year, nearly 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the United States, and more than 60,000 Russian orphans have been successfully adopted there, according to the National Council For Adoption, a U.S. adoption advocacy nonprofit group.
District Attorney Chuck Crawford and other authorities are investigating abuse and child abandonment allegations.
Crawford said Monday that because the child flew alone out of Dulles International Airport outside Washington, charges might have to be filed there.
An airport spokeswoman said the case has been referred to the Loudoun (LOW'-don) County, Va., commonwealth attorney's office. Prosecutors there couldn't be reached Monday evening because the office was closed.