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Dayton grandma at center of child-abuse case lost custody of her own kids in 1986 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Courtney Zubowski   

DAYTON, Texas – Some of the biological children of a Liberty County woman whose 11 grandkids were removed from her home by CPS last month were speaking out Thursday about why their mother lost custody of them nearly three decades ago.

"To me, this is like an emotional rollercoaster, like an instant replay of a nightmare you thought you forgot," said Kristen Miller, 28, one of Tanda Smith’s biological daughters.

Back in 1986, in Jackson County, Mich., Smith – then known as Tanda Marsh – lost parental rights and custody to Miller and her five siblings.

They were all adopted by other families.

The children claimed to have been whipped with belts and burned with cigarettes if they wet their beds. Court documents reveal that many of the children, ranging in age from 6 months to 8 years old, had bruises on their bodies when CPS took them away.

According to court documents obtained by KHOU 11 News, a caseworker reported in 1986 that the Marsh children had been subjected to a very abusive and neglectful environment.

"It appears that much of the abuse has been perpetrated by the mother, Tanda Marsh," the caseworker wrote. "There are indications of mental illness on her part."

The caseworker also wrote that Tanda’s relatives described her as having two personalities.

"Tanda’s mother has verbalized the feeling that Tanda has been in need of psychiatric help for a long time. Her view is also shared by Tanda’s maternal grandmother, who has also been concerned about Tanda’s abusive treatment of the children," the caseworker wrote.

"We were all removed for being abused, as far as her locking us in rooms and her burning my brother," said Sami Lee Marsh, 35, the eldest of Marsh’s biological children from Michigan.

According to another relative, Tanda Marsh got pregnant again after she lost her six kids in Michigan. Fearing that the new baby would be taken away, too, she moved to Texas, where she gave birth to that child and six more.

She raised those seven children in Liberty County. Now, she has a total of 40 grandchildren—some of whom live with her at her Dayton home. Since she left Michigan, she remarried and changed her surname to Smith.

But when her six biological children in Michigan heard about what investigators allegedly found at their mother’s Liberty County home in January, they were disgusted.

They said they can’t believe the grandchildren were allowed to live with Smith in the first place.

"I just hope the kids don’t get placed back there," said Miller.

On January 24, 2012, acting on an anonymous tip, detectives and CPS caseworkers arrived at Smith’s 1,700-square-foot home in the 600 block of Ford Avenue in Dayton and found eight children in a tiny room. They ranged in age from 5 months to 11 years old. Three of the children were tied to their beds, and two were so sick they were rushed to a hospital.

What’s more, a registered sex-offender has Smith’s home listed as his permanent address, and two runaways were found there the day detectives paid a visit.

CPS removed the children and placed them in foster care.

"I just feel that the whole system has failed the children," said Marsh. "I want them to have a chance at life and know what a true family is."

But some of Smith’s other children and in-laws who live in Texas are defending their mother.

Valerie Smith, who’s married to Tanda Smith’s son, told KHOU 11 News she blames her sister-in-law for tying up the children. She says her mother-in-law wasn’t even home that day.

"I think she’s a great grandmother. She has never harmed her grandchildren. I have never seen them put their hands on them," Valerie Smith said.

KHOU 11 News has not been able to get in touch with Tanda Smith, but we were given a handwritten note from her in which she said she did not tie up her grandchildren.

A CPS hearing has been set for March 9, 2012, in Liberty County.

 



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