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National media keeps vigil at Hansen home

Monday, April 12, 2010

Investigators had hoped to speak Monday to the adoptive mother of a Russian boy who has become the center of an international incident.

But ....

Although satellite vans from major networks parked in the parking lot of the church next door to the homes of Torry Hansen and her mother, Nancy Hansen, all weekend, no one was seen leaving or entering. But there were indications someone was there.

"Lights came on every now and then," said one cameraman from CBS.

Business cards and flyers from media representatives that had been wedged in the door Saturday night were missing Sunday morning, although a fruit basket sent by People magazine was still on the front step.

While Detective Capt. Becky Hord's main job is investigating child abuse allegations, over the past few days all she has done is hold interviews with television stations.

National networks and news crews from Nashville were staked out at the Hansen property on Monday, and both Hord and Sheriff Randall Boyce said they have spent much of the past four days dealing with requests from the media, including an invitation for Boyce to appear on Larry King Live on CNN.

Boyce said early Monday that they had been looking at the law to see if the Hansens could be facing charges. The sheriff spoke to a State Department representative early Monday, who told him that there was no federal law that would cover what the Hansens did in returning the boy to Russia.

"He said if a law had been broken, we're going to have to handle it," Boyce said.

But the discovery Monday afternoon that the adoption had been finalized, with Hansen receiving the certificate in November, could change things as law enforcement officials look for potential violations of the law.

Another question that Boyce said they were looking at was the actual age of the child. Children are not supposed to travel alone on airplanes unaccompanied if they are under the age of 8, and Boyce said that the boy supposedly reaches that age when he has a birthday next week.

Before anything can move forward with the case, and even though the boy was flown thousands of miles "and dropped off like a piece of equipment," Hord said that as an investigator, she has to look at the entire picture, and she can't do that until she has the Hansens' side of the story.

Other legal questions are centered around jurisdiction -- since the boy was put on a plane in Nashville, would Davidson County be involved?

Hord said Monday morning they are in the process of obtaining a court order to unseal the adoption records "to see if this child was legally adopted and if this is a final adoption."

There are other questions as well that Hord wants answered: Has the child become a United States citizen? And if the boy was not a citizen and the adoption was not final, what kind of responsibility would the Hansens have to ensure the safety of the child?

Hord also wants to know how a family from Shelbyville was able to arrange payment to have the boy picked up and escorted to authorities once he reached Moscow.

"Once we talk to her, and we get her side of the story ... we're hoping to get enough to move forward ... there are a lot of key things we have to find out," Hord explained. "We have to have things that are factual, not things we are picking up here and there" from media accounts.

Indeed, Hord said the sheriff's department have had no prior contact with the Hansens, "because the only ones we deal with are the ones we got in our jail."

Abuse allegations against the Hansens surfaced in Russian news accounts, and this makes it more difficult for Hord investigate the matter, because she has no access to the boy to that she can look into it herself.

But if the inquiry shows that a law was broken, then the sheriff's department would present the charges to District Attorney General Chuck Crawford.

Bedford County Animal Control also visited the Hansen home on Saturday to check on the welfare of several dogs on the property, making sure they had food and water.