Behind the Headlines

The Family Reacts

"Last time that I saw Adam, he was about 18 months old. When the state told me that I lost the rights to my kids, it went through me like a bullet," says Irvin, Adam's biological father. "When I found out that my son had been missing for 10 years, I had a rush of emotions. I didn't know what to think. I thought he was going to get a home. A lot of people are thinking, ‘OK, you haven't seen him in 20 years,' but you know what? He's still my son. The hardest thing is knowing that I lost him once and hoping to find him again one day, to find out that that will probably never happen. So I've lost him twice."

Irvin's ex-wife, Gerri, explains why her parental rights to eight children, including Adam, were terminated. "I tried to prove I could be a good parent. I guess I wasn't good enough. I pray and hope every day that Adam is somewhere safe," she says. 

Adam's adoptive aunt, Kim, says her sister constantly punished the child. "Valerie treated Adam a lot differently than she treated the other children. Valerie did abuse Adam," she says. She explains a horrifying sight that she says she witnessed. "My husband and I went to Valerie and Doug's house. When I walked into the bathroom, Adam was in the bathtub. He was chained " either with handcuffs or a chain " to the faucets. When I asked Valerie about why Adam was chained in the bathroom, she told me that he was being bad.

 

"Adam was always helping with the dishes. He was always putting the clothes away. Adam never went outside to play," Kim continues. "One time Adam was eating with the other two children. The other two kids didn't finish their food, so Valerie put it on Adam's plate and told Adam to eat it. Adam made a comment that he was full. Valerie reached over and hit Adam in the back of the head so hard that his head went down into his plate. Adam was the one who Valerie took out all of her anger on."

Dr. Phil explains that Valerie Herrman emphatically denies any abuse allegations. She and her husband, Doug, were asked to participate in the show, but they declined. 

Along with Adam's aunt, Kim, Dr. Phil is joined by Irvin and Gerri, who haven't seen each other in 20 years.

Host Nancy Grace, HLN, joins the conversation via satellite. A leading legal commentator, Nancy has followed missing children's cases for years. Dr. Phil turns to her. "In this case, we have an 11-year-old boy who's gone missing, and in 10 years not anybody has raised a question about his whereabouts. What does that say to you as a former prosecutor and as someone who tracks these cases?" he asks.

"And, as a new mother, I would like to add. When your child goes missing, and you don't report it, it means one thing to me: that you are involved in the child's disappearance," Nancy says, visibly upset. "Dr. Phil, yes, they deny any guilt or any wrongdoing, but the state has named [Valerie and Doug Herrman] as formal suspects in little Adam's disappearance. When I heard you play back that the family, the adopted family, came in and saw a little boy chained up in the bathroom " if that home had fallen down around me, I would have gotten that child out at that moment. Call the police, do something, but don't just shut the door and leave the child in there. The whole family is responsible."

Dr. Phil turns to Kim. "Nancy took the words right out of my mouth. At that point did you call the authorities? Did you call the police? Did you call Child Protective Services?"

Kim answers no to each query.

"Why not?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I don't know how to answer that," Kim says, fighting back tears. "I don't know."

"You left this boy chained to a bathtub fixture. You just turned the light off, shut the door, and that was the last he saw of you?"

"Yes."

 

Dr. Phil wonders aloud if Kim understood the gravity of what she says she witnessed. "Did it occur to you that a crime was being committed and that you should pick up the phone and call some authorities to come in and take care of this child?" he asks.


"Yes," she replies. "I went home, and I discussed it with my husband, because my husband walked in on it too, and this is the first time we knew anything about it. We had discussed it, and he said we needed to do something about it. The next day, I was going to call the authorities and Valerie came over, and we spent the whole day together. I commented again about Adam, where Adam was. She said Adam was in the bathroom at home locked up, because he was being bad."

"So you saw it with your own eyes, then you went home and discussed it with your husband. Did he pick up the phone and call the authorities?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"No."

Dr. Phil can't conceal his astonishment. "Nancy, help me out here,"  he says.

"Unfortunately, Dr. Phil, in our jurisprudence system, there is no duty to be a Good Samaritan. The only one she'll answer to is God in heaven. She will never be prosecuted for this, but there were signals everywhere. She was not the only one who ignored it," Nancy declares. "Listen to this, Dr. Phil. Just before he ‘goes missing,' they take him out of the school system and decide to ‘home school.'"