HLN's Nancy Grace covers the murder of Hyunsu Kim

HLN’s Nancy Grace brought little Kim Hyunsu’s murder case into the national media limelight on Monday October 13th when she aired a segment providing an overview of the case and its current status (transcript here).

Grace began the segment with a theme she repeated throughout: Did Brian Patrick O’Callaghan receive preferential treatment in the adoption process or as a suspect in this case because of his status within NSA? She and Dan Morse of the Washington Post, who covers Montgomery County, Maryland for the Post and co-authored the initial Post article about the case, provided the introduction to O’Callaghan with which we are now familiar: decorated veteran of Kosovo and Iraq; fluent in Arabic; Chief of the NSA’s Korea division. The adoption of Madoc O'Callaghan, as he is known in much of the press, was agency-facilitated and appears unremarkable from a procedural perspective.

Nancy Grace and child welfare expert Maureen Flatley both noted the possibility of PTSD as a possible contributor in this case. Flatley noted that child homicide is escalating, and that the kind of violence perpetrated on Hyunsu doesn’t come out of the blue. She and psychologist Caryn Stark both noted the correlation between PTSD and child abuse. Flatley further questioned the pre-screening performed for Hyunsu’s adoption, asking if, in light of O’Callaghan’s multiple combat assignments, PTSD was addressed. (I would question if an adoption homestudy screens for PTSD or any mental health disorders.)

According to Morse, when interviewed by the police, O’Callaghan spoke of events of the day and night before he brought Hyunsu to the hospital for treatment, indicating that Hyunsu had slipped in the shower. He did not disclose anything consistent with the injuries Hyunsu presented at the hospital, although HLN staff blogger Stacey Newman noted late in the program that at some point during his interviews, O’Callaghan added that Hyunsu had fallen down the stairs, too.

Hyunsu' injuries are truly horrific:

  • 86 degree body temperature upon arrival at the hospital
  • Swelling and bleeding of the brain
  • Injuries to front and back consistent with beating
  • Impact or squeezing trauma to genitals
  • Fractured skull
  • Bruises to forehead
  • Marks from a linear triangular object
  • Other contusions
  • Hemorrhaging

By the time he was brought to the hospital, he was brain dead.

Grace mentioned more than once her concern that O’Callaghan may be receiving preferential treatment given his position at NSA. NSA has made no comment about the case, nor has the adoption agency. (Although no reason has been given, Holt stopped placing children from Korea through Catholic Charities of Maryland, who facilitated Hyunsu’s adoption. Holt, however, has not placed blame on Catholic Charities, nor have they admitted any procedural culpability. Catholic Charities, for obvious reasons, is silent.)

Grace briefly discussed the legal aspects of the case with attorneys Peter Odom and David Benowitz. Odom noted that the more medical evidence suggests abuse, the more difficult it will be to prove that the injuries were caused by an accident. Benowitz described how such a defense would likely proceed: by reviewing every detail of the autopsy, carefully evaluating the house (especially the shower and stairs) as a potential crime scene for evidence of accident and determining O’Callaghan’s medical condition at the time of police interviews. Grace pointed out that at least one fact will be difficult for the defense to ignore: O’Callaghan’s own statement that the injuries were due to a slip in the shower. (O’Callaghan’s defense is being provided by the DC law firm of Mallon & McCool, LLC.)

Grace asked rhetorically what the role of Jennifer O’Callaghan is in this case. Pretty much everyone interested in this case is asking the same question. Ms. O’Callaghan is standing by her husband, but saying nothing else.

In closing, Grace and Morse discussed next steps in the case. Both the prosecution and defense are reviewing the evidence, in particular the autopsy report. Autopsy has been seriously hampered by the fact that the O’Callaghan’s donated Hyunsu’s organs immediately following his death, prior to Brian O’Callaghan’s arrest. Prosecutors are attempting to locate those organs, presumably to determine if they have in fact been donated, were unusable or have been destroyed.

(As of today, little Kim Hyunsu’s grave in the Damascus Methodist Church Cemetery remains without a stone, identifiexed only with a small paper marker. I sincerely hope the family, which given current adoption law in Korea and the U.S. has custody of his body, places a stone soon to honor his short life and death.)

Montgomery County Circuit Court case search website for correct docket info and court schedule for events in this trial. Car details follow. Note that changes occur frequently, and check the very bottom of the docket for recent court orders that may affect the schedule. Call the Montgomery County Circuit Court Adornment Assignment Office at 240-777-9000 to confirm the schedule. 

Circuit Court for Montgomery County - Criminal System
Judge John W. Debelius, III
Location: 50 Maryland Avenue North Tower Courtroom 3e, Rockville, MD
Case 124572C
Tracking Number: 14-1001-04609-3
District Court Number: 5D00304526
Defendant: O'Callaghan, Brian Patrick

Comments

Suzanne said…
It's utterly heartbreaking what happened to Hyunsu that should NEVER EVER have happened in the first place. Adoption done wrong KILLS.

I watched the Nancy Grace interview and have to admit I'm a bit puzzled that the other guests kept referring to Hyunsu's adoptive father as a "bigwig at the NSA" - the guy was a Director, with a staff off only 10-12 staffers that reported to him, which does not strike me as especially bigwig-ish. Heck, I wouldn't even classify that as middle management.

I've no earthly idea why the wife is siding with her husband regarding what is clearly a brutal, fatal assault on a tiny little toddler. The fact that Hyunsu's body temperature was so very low by the time he was brought to the hospital alone says the dad did not bother to get him the care he desperately needed. And an injured scrotum? That's pretty much impossible to explain as being the direct result of a toddler falling in the tub!

I do think it is possible that Brian O'Callaghan had no criminal record and no history of ever having harmed a child prior to adopting this little boy... and that is flat-out terrifying. Because if a seemingly law-abiding man, who has held a number of stressful positions in the military and at the NSA, and coped well under the pressure, the fact that he could be literally undone by a 3 yo toddler in the span of less than a week is TERRIFYIGN.

Maureen said…
One of the major issues that has come up re O'Callaghan's military service is the time he spent in the Balkans. Service members in that region have exhibited far more serious symptoms of PTSD and atrocities committed by US troops were off the charts serious. The military and the NSA are always tight lipped about any history of work place violence, domestic abuse etc. There are further reports from members of the community that he was not interested in pursuing the adoption at all, that she wanted a girl not a boy and that his lack of attachment to the child prior to the incident was obvious. Screaming red flags at every turn.
I am puzzled that so many, particularly adoptive parents, do not see this case as related to adoption at all. Even knowledgable adoptive parents in my circle of friends were quick to jump to the "this happens in birth families, too" excuse. Yes, sadly, this does happen in birth families. But anyone who facilitates adoptions should be doing everything in their power to make sure it DOESN'T happen in adoption. That speaks to mental health screening, and without any sort of adoption regulation with teeth, there's no way to ensure it is done properly, if at all.
When this "happens in birth families too" it is a cruel trick of fate that a child is born to a damaged person; when it happens within an adoption; it is not just chance. Instead it is a situation created by man that is supposed to be "better" for the child. so there is a greater standard that MUST be upheld. We cannot blame fate and bad luck and just the one horrible person who perpetuated the crime against a child; we MUST look at the whole system that helped place that child in the dangerous situation. The blame is shared.
Lorraine Dusky said…
Yes, this happens in regular non-adopted families but people who adopt have a special responsibility not to beat the life out of a child--is their other child, in another part of the house-as the Washington Post story stated--also adopted? In a way, it doesn't matter, because one individual in a family can take the family abuse. What we do know is that this child was adopted.

The particulars of this case are sickening and a simple slip in the shower? “An absolutely horrific crime on an absolutely innocent young victim,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton, listing injuries to the boy’s head, neck and back. “Basically this child was beaten to death from head to toe.”according to the Washington Post.

As far as I know, there is no good way to have statistics on adoptive deaths like this versus biological family murders, as so many people today tend to deny the adoption when, say, the census is taken. But that would be a good statistic to know.
Jac said…
Same ol' Same ol'...Adopter with mental probs,.. adoption agents with no probs...once the cash is in the bank...

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