Arkansas State Rep Reportedly Gave Away His Adopted Daughters Because They Were ‘Possessed’

By
In this Feb. 26, photo, Rep. Justin T. Harris, R-West Fork, questions a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Education at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has instructed the state to review adoption procedures after Harris gave his adopted daughters to a man who admitted to sexually abusing one of them. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Justin HarrisPhoto: Danny Johnston/AP/Corbis

Last week, a report by the Arkansas Times revealed that Republican state representative Justin Harris and his wife Marsha had “rehomed” two young sisters they had adopted after claiming the girls, who had a long history of neglect and sexual abuse, were violent and a threat to the Harrises’ three biological sons. Just six months after the adoption was finalized, Harris sent the girls to live with Eric Cameron Francis, then a teacher at a Christian preschool, who was later arrested for raping the older girl, then 6 years old. Now a new report from the Arkansas Times reveals the bizarre treatment the girls were subjected to in the Harris household, and the beliefs of demonic possession that may have led them to be placed in the care of a child molester.

Harris says he wanted to adopt two sisters — Mary and Annie, who were 4 and 2 at the time — after a mother reached out to him saying they were about to be placed in foster care, but that the Department of Human Services forced him to also adopt the oldest sister, 6-year-old Jeannette, who “presented an imminent danger.” Within months of Jeannette coming to live with the family, the Harrises sent her to a hospital and refused to go through with the adoption. They did, however, adopt Mary and Annie, despite protests from the girls’ foster families who claimed that due to their history of sexual abuse, entering a family with older brothers may not be the best environment for them. According to the Arkansas Times, Harris reportedly used his power as a state rep to push the adoption through, threatening to “hold up the budget for the division if he didn’t get to adopt those girls.”

Once the girls were adopted, the Harrises claimed they were both violent, and that one crushed a pet guinea pig to death. The former foster family of the girls and others who knew them before the adoption told the Arkansas Times that though they struggled with emotional issues stemming from their difficult upbringing, they were “normal little girls. They were very delightful, fun, energetic … never an ounce of threat from them.”

Chelsey Goldborough, the girls’ former babysitter while they lived with the Harrises, told the paper that the older daughter, Mary, was kept in her bedroom almost all the time and monitored by a security camera. The girls were not allowed to talk to each other because the Harrises believed they could communicate telepathically and were demonically possessed. Several sources told the paper there was at least one attempted exorcism. According to the Arkansas Times:

Goldsborough said the Harrises showed her “a picture of [Mary] where they’re like, ‘You can see the demon rising from her back,’ and it just looked like a little 6-year-old to me.” [Mary was 4 or 5.] The separate source close to the Harrises reported seeing a video that Marsha Harris said showed a demon interacting with one of the girls. The source said demons were an “obsession” with Marsha Harris.

At a press conference last week, Harris addressed the Times’ report, saying he decided to “rehome” the girls without telling the Department of Human Services because he would’ve faced state abandonment charges otherwise, which could have threatened his rights to his biological children.

Despite the horrific chain of events, the girls are reportedly putting it all behind them. Jeannette was adopted by a therapeutic foster family and “is said to be doing well.” Mary and Annie have both been adopted by a loving family that does not believe in demonic possession.

Since they have been home with us, they have adjusted beautifully and are thriving in our home with unconditional love and patience,” the adoptive parents wrote in an email to the Times. “We are truly amazed at our daughters’ ability to love and bond with us, given all they have experienced.”