The 14-year-old girl featured in the Star-Telegram's recent report on child abuse, who was kidnapped at age 12, forced into prostitution and impregnated at age 13, is on the verge of adoption by the foster parents she and her 10-month-old son have lived with for nearly a year.
Lin and Rick Humphrey of Athens were back in a Grayson County courtroom last week for what they hoped would be the final hearing paving the way to adoption. The judge agreed to terminate the rights of the girl’s biological mother, Brandi Demoure, who agreed to relinquish them last month.
But one snag remains that will delay the adoption process.
The girl’s father and Demoure’s estranged husband, Benjarmin Onyeforo, whose relationship with his daughter has never grown beyond infrequent phone calls and texts, has refused since last November to sign documents that would effectively relinquish his rights to his daughter, according to court testimony.
Onyeforo, who married Demoure in 2005 while in prison and has a lengthy criminal record in Grayson and Denton counties, is believed to live in Georgia.
Reached on his cellphone after the hearing, Onyeforo, who has never lived with Demoure, said, “I’m not going to sign it. I know who is going to get my daughter.” He then hung up and did not return subsequent voice messages.
Judge Rayburn M. Nall Jr., also granted an extension to give Onyeforo one last chance to sign a settlement. If Onyeforo does not comply, the judge is expected to terminate his rights during a hearing scheduled for September.
The Humphreys hope the adoption will be finalized in October.
They crossed a major hurdle when Demoure gave up her rights.
“It’s a big step because that part of my life is over, I don’t have to deal with that part anymore,” Lin Humphrey said.
The Star-Telegram is not identifying the teen because she is a victim of sexual abuse.
Lin Humphrey said last week’s decision was like the top of the ninth inning of a prolonged process. Outside the 59th District Court, her husband cradled the girl’s young son in his arms, proclaiming he truly does feel like the little boy’s dad.
“When they first came, my daughter was staying with me and I thought, you know, I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this,” said Rick Humphrey, who has a 22-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. “Through prayer and everything, I got a sense of peace that, yeah, I’ll be able to do this.”
And the girl said she is eager to get the adoption finalized. Her life was turned upside down when at 10 she and her younger sister, now in the care of a foster family in Fort Worth, moved with their mom from Sherman to Fort Worth and onto Las Vegas Trail, a four-lane street on the city’s west side in an area that is riddled with abuse, crime and drug use.
“Perfect,” the girl said of her life with the Humphreys. “My life is perfect.”
‘We don’t have to worry’
She finished the seventh grade last spring and will enter the eighth in the fall, just one grade behind her age group, which isn’t bad considering she basically skipped her entire fifth grade year when she simply didn’t go to school under the care of her mother in Fort Worth.
She had missed her seventh-grade year after she became pregnant.
“Mostly I’m happy that it’s almost over,” said the girl, an avid softball player. “I don’t want my mom to be so depressed to where she does stupid things because it is coming to an end. With my mom, she barely has any money, so I probably wouldn’t get as much help. I’m going to school with [Lin], with my friends, and with my mom I wouldn’t go to school.
And now, she said, “we don’t have to worry about CPS showing up any time.”
The adjustment to living with the Humphreys was made easier by their previous relationship. Lin Humphrey and her late husband used to live in Sherman, and Lin was friendly with Demoure’s mother. When Demoure was pregnant with the girl, her life was unstable and her daughter was practically raised in Lin’s household until Demoure moved.
According to the mediated settlement agreement, the girl has the right to determine if and when she wants to speak to her mother on the phone. Twice a year, in January and July, she will be allowed to visit with her mother, but whether the visit occurs is within the girl’s discretion.
Demoure, 41, who failed a drug screening during the span of the custody hearings, according to court testimony, said she is not at peace with having relinquished her rights to her daughter, but “I did what I thought was best for her.”
She said she plans to continue to fight for custody of the girl’s 13-year-old sister living with a foster family in Fort Worth. She has seven children by four different men, Demoure said.
Onyeforo is the father of the girl and her younger sister, said Demoure, who resides in Dallas with her boyfriend of three years. She said she is unemployed and continues to live off disability checks as she has for years while hoping to make a career in nursing.
“I just feel like it’s better for her,” Demoure said of giving up her daughter. “I still get to see her and talk to her but it’s on her terms and that’s fine. When she gets older she’ll see that I tried my best. I put up a fight, I just didn’t let her go.”
Though she never lived with Onyeforo, who Demoure said fathered her youngest two daughters, and says she “has nothing to do with him,” they have not divorced.
Happiness upends a tragic story
At 12 years old, shortly after the girl moved with her mom and younger sister from Las Vegas Trail to south Fort Worth, she ran away and stumbled into unimaginable danger. She was offered a ride by a woman in a black car, and accepted.
“I thought, ‘This is a girl, I can trust her,’” the girl told the Star-Telegram during a May interview for the child abuse project. “She was like, ‘Let me take you home.’ ”
When she climbed into the front seat she found a man was hiding in the back seat.
Instead of driving her home, they took her to a Section 8 apartment complex where she met another man, a pimp she knew only as “Stud.” For the next five months, she was held by the group, forced into prostitution and sex-trafficked. She believes she was impregnated by a man she knew only as “Jose,” because, she said, he was the only man who had sex with her who did not use a condom.
Fort Worth police finally ended her ordeal when they answered a disturbance call at a Motel 6. The person in the next room heard her screams as Jernetta Coleman, a prostitute police said, physically abused her by putting a plastic bag over her head and asking her what she had to live for. Coleman was arrested and in January started a 12-year-sentence for aggravated kidnapping.
“Stud” is in prison on unrelated charges, and police have never been able to identify “Jose.”
At 14, the girl gave birth to her son on Aug. 25, 2016. On Sept. 30, she and her newborn moved in with the Humphreys.
“Sometimes it’s fun,” the girl said of being a mom. “But then again, when I can’t just go hang out with my friends, it’s not so fun.”
Now Lin and Rick Humphrey are there, soon permanently as mom and dad, to provide the love and care for this young girl old beyond her years and her smiling baby boy.
“He’s never known anything but, and everybody talks about how calm he is,” said Lin Humphrey, who works for Texas Health and Human Services, and hopes to soon become an investigator for Child Protective Services. “And she’s done really well. She’s learning. At school, she has just blossomed.
“But it’s because, I truly believe, we’ve got them in a stable, secure home. They don’t have to worry about where to lay their head the next day or where their next meal is coming from.”
Jeff Caplan: 817-390-7705, @Jeff_Caplan