Image: Randall Boyce, Becky Hord
Mark Humphrey  /  AP
Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce, left, listens as Detective Becky Hord, right, answers questions Monday, in Shelbyville, Tenn., concerning the case of a 7-year-old boy who flew unaccompanied to Moscow last week.
updated 4/12/2010 9:30:03 PM ET 2010-04-13T01:30:03

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. ...

‘Nothing is simple about this’
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.

Outrage in Russia
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.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Outrage grows over returned adoptee

  1. Transcript of: Outrage grows over returned adoptee

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The State Department said today it's sending a delegation to Russia to clarify any changes to adoption rules after an American mother sent her adopted son on a flight back to Russia all by himself. The case has caused outrage in Russia and here at home, including in Shelbyville , Tennessee , where the family lives. Our own Ron Allen is there tonight with the latest on this case.

    RON ALLEN reporting: A swingset and toys are the only signs of family life at Torry Hansen 's home, the adoptive mother yet to fully explain why she put her seven-year-old son Justin on a plane back to Russia , where, according to caretakers Artyom , his Russian name , has shown no sign he's violent, as Hansen claimed.

    Mr. PAVEL ASTAKHOV (Children's Rights Commissioner): I've hard from doctors and from medical personnels that all mental and physical conditions are good.

    ALLEN: But the emotional behavior Hansen says she feared does not surprise some doctors who work with international adoptions. Children from orphanages who sometimes have difficulty trusting anyone.

    Dr. ALICE ROTHMAN (Vanderbilt University International Adoption Clinic): If there's not any stability or -- in the caregivers that are providing care to these children, then that affects their ability to bond with an adult.

    ALLEN: James and Barbara Diggs adopted an eight-year- old Russian girl with severe emotional problems.

    Mr. JAMES DIGGS: She has a problem with compulsive lying, of severe disobedience.

    ALLEN: After years of therapy did not help, the Diggs ended the adoption legally. The girl now lives with a family better able to cope. And that's how adoptions that aren't working out usually get resolved. But children from abroad, experts say, families don't stay together only about 1 percent of the time. Which means perhaps a couple hundred parents and their adopted children separated in the US each year. There's still a huge uproar about a mom sending an adopted child back. She's been called cruel, a child abuser, But some lawyers say no crime was committed because children often fly alone on airplanes and there was care waiting for him when he landed.

    Ms. KAREN DESOTO (Former Prosecutor): There was no intent to abandon. There was no intent to put the child in any type of danger.

    ALLEN: And late today, local authorities said Hansen informed them she has no plans to discuss what happened unless she is charged with a crime. Ron Allen, NBC News, Shelbyville, Tennessee.


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