A young American couple adopted a nine-year-old Russian girl and later became afraid of her. More than 20 years ago, a Russian girl was adopted by a young American couple who eventually brought her back to Moscow. Why do they make such a decision? What happened? Open to that little girl and how did she end up back in the United States? In 1997, Crystal and Jesse were a young married couple eager to start a family. After years of trying to have a child on their own, they decided to take the adoption route.
They came across a Russian adoption agency’s website and saw a photo of a nine-year-old girl. She was a beautiful child, Crystal said. We thought this is an older child. We can give a normal life. Excited for this new chapter, the couple began the adoption process when Crystal and Jessie received the child’s medical records from the adoption agency. The documents described her as outgoing and intelligent, but one thing stuck out. They did say she was oligophranic, Crystal said, which back then translated as mental retardation.
However, the agency told the couple not to be concerned. They stated it was a developmental delay, Crystal said. And we were assured that this child was healthy and that in a good home with the best doctors in America helping her with the developmental issues that she’d be fine. In July 1997, Crystal and Jessie traveled to a Russian orphanage in the small town of Barofici.
After a long journey, they were finally United with their new daughter, who they called Carole. She looked into my eyes very warmly. You’re my Mama, Crystal said. The couple also adopted a three-year-old boy. They named Joshua. As the adoption was finalized, Crystal and Jesse noticed certain things about Carolyn’s behavior. We did see the anger, but it could be explained, Crystal said. Certainly, a child arriving at a new culture, a new family, and leaving her home. That’s the only thing she’s ever known. After the family came back to the United States, they settled into a new home in Georgia.
But soon enough, Crystal and Jesse said Carole started acting withdrawn and angry. Crystal quit her job to spend more time with Carolee. But things continue to get worse. It was the day after Christmas in 1998 when Crystal says the unthinkable happened. Carolyn and Joshua were playing in the backyard while Crystal was planting. She suddenly heard her four-year-old screaming, and when she looked over, Crystal told 48 Hours correspondent, Troy Roberts, she saw Caroly holding Joshua over the railing of the 30-foot high deck.
She had him in her hands and was going to throw him over the deck.
She had him. Yes, Crystal demanded. Carole put her brother down and asked what she was doing.
And I just started screaming. Put him down. Caroly put him down. What are you doing?
Aside from the death incident, Carole also told her parents she was hearing voices and hallucinating, so the couple was admitted carefully to a psychiatric hospital. She then spent the following months in therapeutic care with their daughter and treatment. Crystal and Jesse received more documents from the adoption agency that revealed troubling details about Carole’s upbringing. It says the mother was moral and antisocial, Crystal said. The documents also stated how Carole’s birth mother left her dirty, hungry and in rags, and during her time at the Russian orphanage, Caroly was in the special dorm for children with mental disabilities.
This was all critical information that Crystal and Jesse said the adoption agency failed to share with them beforehand. Nina Casting helped arrange Caroly’s adoption in 1997. She denied hiding any information from Crystal and Jesse and explained that the medical information she received was limited by Russian Privacy laws. However, once the parents are in the orphanage, they have access to any medical records from the doctors, Kristina explained. And this is their time to ask any questions. After almost four months away in therapeutic care, Crystal and Jesse had to bring Caroly home after their insurance started running out, but the couple still believed their daughter was a danger to her brother, Joshua.
She’s repeated this for months on multiple occasions. If I get another chance, I will kill him, Jessie said.
She’s been on all kinds of medication, and none of it has worked. We’ve had cameras installed and we’ve had alarms installed on her doors.
And even with the security cameras in the house, Crystal and Jesse were still worried about their son Joshua, so they decided to send him 600 miles away to live at his grandmother’s home in Texas. Why do we have to send him to Grandma’s house to keep him safe? Crystal asked Caroly, because I may hear him, Caroly replied. Dr. Brian Kennedy was one of the psychiatrists who saw Carole. He explained how Carole suffered from attachment disorder, which in effect is an inability to love. She does love to smile and laugh, Dr.
Kennedy said. But I think when you look at what she’s been through and when you see how she functions under stress, she can become very different and have a significant range. Other doctors who treated Carole also had concerns, but at least one psychiatrist had another opinion. After treating Carolee during her stay at the psychiatric hospital, this doctor wrote, Caroly’s behavior was impeccable and that his staff perceived Crystal and Jesse as too often cool and distant towards their daughter. By the winter of one nine and 199, almost a year after the incident on the deck, Crystal and Jesse felt like they’d run out of options and had to make a difficult decision.
We cannot continue to be her parents, Jesse said. They tapped into their life savings and decided to bring Caroly back to Russia so that she could be treated at a psychiatric hospital there. After they arrived in Moscow, Crystal and Jesse arranged for Carole to stay at a children’s psychiatric hospital. But right before she went in, Caroly told 48 Hours Troy Roberts, something she never said before. Despite what she told Roberts, Crystal and Jesse felt they did everything they could. In the end, the couple brought Caroly inside the psychiatric hospital and left her there.
Days later, 48 Hours returned with a hidden camera to visit Carole, who was in a locked ward in a hospital. I don’t feel safe here, Carole told Roberts. I want to go back to America. I’m scared of staying here, but Crystal and Jesse never went back to get her. And shortly after they left, the couple annulled the adoption in early 2000. Since the last time Robert saw Caroly in the Russian hospital, he tried to get in touch with her over the years but was unsuccessful. I always wondered how she was doing, if she was thriving, if she was happy, Robert said.
I’ve always kept her in my thoughts and my heart. And then after more than two decades, Carole got in touch with him. In the summer of 2021, Roberts was reunited with a person he knew was Carolee. Now she’s a 33-year-old woman who calls herself Sabrina. She’s married and has four children, the two men near Sabrina’s home in North Carolina. But how did she end up here? Robert sat down with Sabrina to find out when Sabrina was living with Crystal and Jesse, she said it seemed like they favored Joshua over her, which made her feel unwanted.
She told Robert she became depressed and even suicidal. That’s when Sabrina said she created a story. I told Crystal, you know, I’m seeing and hearing things, Sabrina said, because I want it out. Sabrina also had a different version of what happened on the deck that day in 1998, when Krystal asked her to go and get Joshua, Sabrina said she struggled to carry her brother down the stairs because he was too big and sliding out of her hands. Sabrina said she tried to explain this to Crystal, and she was like, no, you were trying to kill him, and she kept saying it, Sabrina told Roberts.
I finally said yes. After she met with various psychiatrists, Sabrina recalled learning that she was going back to Russia. Crystal said they were running out of options and they think the Russian Institute will be better, Sabrina said. And after Crystal and Jesse left her at the hospital in Moscow, Sabrina said she knew they weren’t coming back for her. I felt like I was in jail, but then I think of it. I put myself there, she said. And all those lying and doing what they want me to do.
I put myself there. Sabrina spent two months in a mental hospital until Nina Casting picked her up and brought her back to the United States. Then in 2002, Sabrina was adopted by a new family in North Carolina. She lived there until shortly after she graduated from high school in 2008. Sabrina volunteered for the nonprofit Mercy Ships and spent two years providing medical care to underprivileged people in Africa. It was a rewarding experience, she said. When Sabrina returned to North Carolina in 2010, she found a job at a hospital, and two years later she met fifth-grade teacher Phil Caldwell at a Church.
I fell in love with him when I saw him interact with kids, Sabrina said. Phil and Sabrina married in 2014 and went on to have three daughters. Last summer, Sabrina gave birth to their first son. Recently, Phil stopped teaching and started a new job at the same hospital where his wife works. Today, Sabrina says she is not on any medication and does not suffer from any mental illness. Sabrina also says she loved Crystal and Jessie when she was a child, and I still have high respect for them, she told Roberts.
Putting myself in their shoes, I would have probably done almost the same thing except for one thing. I wouldn’t take a child back, Sabrina said. But even though she has no hard feelings towards the couple, I learned to forgive my past, she explained. I have an amazing husband. I have amazing kids, but if I don’t go through what I went through, I wouldn’t have that.