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Suspended deputy attorney general, wife regain custody of biological children

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 12:45 p.m.

A Franklin Park couple accused of abusing their two adopted children will regain custody of their two biological children, an Allegheny County judged ruled on Thursday.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning lifted a no-contact order covering the 2-year-old son of Douglas and Kristen Barbour and said a similar order for the couple's daughter, 5, will be lifted within a week after she makes a videotaped statement to prosecutors.

“The parents very much want their children home with them,” said Charles Porter, Douglas Barbour's attorney.

Barbour is a deputy state attorney general suspended without pay.

The biological children have lived with their paternal grandparents since the Barbours' arrest in October. The couple were allowed supervised visits two or three times a week since being released on bond, their attorneys said.

Police said the couple denied proper nutrition to their adopted son, 6, who was taken to Children‘s Hospital in Lawrenceville on Sept. 14. When admitted, he weighed 9.5 pounds less than when he entered the United States from Ethiopia six months earlier.

Their daughter, 18 months, who also is from Ethiopia and was hospitalized on the same day, has multiple healing skull fractures, police said.

The adopted children are with foster families.

Family Division Judge Kathleen R. Mulligan in December ruled the Barbours may have custody of their biological children, who authorities said were not abused.

The couple's defense attorneys said Manning's decision was necessary because a no-contact order was a condition of their bail.

“It is neither my duty nor my obligation to interfere with” Mulligan's decision, Manning said.

Dr. Ronald Neeper, a psychiatric consultant for the court who performed a mental evaluation on the couple, said he does not believe they were a threat.

Neeper, however, said he believes the Barbours could influence their oldest child, who may testify for the prosecution, which is why Manning ordered her statement recorded.

The Barbours are charged with simple assault, endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment. Kristen Barbour, 31, also is charged with aggravated assault.

According to the police affidavit, the 6-year-old boy was admitted to the hospital for hypothermia, rapid breathing and significant skin breakdown. The child initially was taken to Express Care in Wexford by his father for an infection.

When told the boy's body temperature was 93.6 degrees, Douglas Barbour, 33, asked: “Would that be from being in the bathroom cold, wet and naked for an hour?”

When the boy was interviewed Oct. 2 at A Child's Place at Mercy, he said that when he was bad — which he described as urinating or defecating in his pants — he was forced to eat his meals in the bathroom, the affidavit said. He also was forced to stand in the bathroom in the dark, which he said was “scary.”

Upon his admission, the boy weighed 37.5 pounds but gained 6.8 pounds during six days in the hospital. When he arrived in the United States in March from Ethiopia, he weighed nearly 47 pounds, police said.

The 18-month-old girl was taken to the hospital on the same day because her eyes were rolling back and she had difficulty in breathing.

Kristen Barbour told doctors that the toddler has a history of banging her head. Doctors found multiple healing fractures and said it was abuse.

The Barbours' trial is scheduled for July 9.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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