An American family adopted the two-year-old Dima Yakolev last March from the Pskovsk Regional Orphanage. The boy died when his father stopped by his office and left him in a parked car all day long.
It was boiling hot on the street. The temperature had reached 30 degrees Celsius and 55 degrees inside the vehicle. The child died and his foster father Mike Harrison wound up in the hospital after a heart attack. Harrison is managing director of the consulting firm, Project Solutions Group.
Dima had made a long journey from Russia's Pechor Pskovsk region to the U.S. His new family lived in Herndon, Virginia outside Washington DC. First, it seemed that fate had dealt the boy a second chance. His biological mother had put him up for adoption immediately after his birth — even though she too was raised in an orphanage. Dima was moved straight from the labor ward to the Pskovsk Regional Orphanage for children with a damaged central nervous system.
"We received Dima in 2006 straight from the labor ward," said Natalya Vishnevskaya, the head doctor at the orphanage. "His 18-year-old mother signed a refusal of the child and disappeared. It's unclear where she is now. She is a mentally disabled, lonely young girl who was also raised in an orphanage."
Dima's parents could have been Russian, but the potential foster parents reconsidered due to problems with his health. The boy had a cardiac murmur. However, the condition isn't severe. Doctors report the medical condition can be found in one of two babies during a detailed health check.
"The doctors discovered a heart murmur," Vishnevskaya said. "And although the boy was sweet, it was likely this diagnose together with his background that frightened the Russian couple. But the Harrisons agreed to adopt Dima."
The Harrisons entered Dima's life in the spring. The 45-year-old mother Carol and 49-year-old father Michael arrived to Russia from the U.S. to pick up their bundle of joy. They gathered all the necessary documents and Dima flew to a new country, family and home. He also received a new name. The Russian "Dima" became the American "Chase."
On that misfortune day, Michael's father was supposed to take his child to the nursery. But he decided to stop by work. He left the boy locked in his car in the parking lot with his seat belt fastened. He parked the off-road vehicle beneath the windows of his office. Michael lost track of time, and his heart skipped a beat when a passerby noticed "something" in the car. When the vehicle was opened, Dima was no longer breathing. His father tried to resuscitate the child and someone called the police.
After the tragedy, Carol requested that no one interfere with their personal life and restricted herself to: "We're mourning."
Michael ended up in the hospital. He fell into shock and had a heart attack. He was transferred to a private mental hospital. He is charged with manslaughter and faces up to 10 years in prison.
"I had a very good impression of the pair. They were absolutely normal people who were ready to become parents and take care of their child," Vishnevskaya said. "The boy was friendly, calm and good-natured. And he wasn't capricious at all. He was almost completely healthy when he was adopted."
How could a responsible adult who achieved such success have forgotten about his child? It's also hard to believe that 376 children have suffered a similar death in the U.S. over the past 10 years.
Interestingly, the boy died Tuesday — one week ago. But news of the tragedy reached Russia only several days later. Employees of the Russian Embassy in the U.S. only learned what had happened from the papers.
Commentary from Officials
"We find no accuse for the actions of the foster father," said Valentina Chernova, head of adoption at the State Department for Social Development in the Pskovsk Region, and Nadejda Kulgavova, regional operator of the Parentless Children's Database. "He lost consciousness only after seeing the child. This means he was functioning well enough to have remembered the child up until that point. We received character sketches from people close to the couple. They were all positive. One wrote: 'I'm lucky to have two wonderful friends who I would unconditionally trust with my own child.' The foster parents also signed a statement prohibiting child abuse. The pair have adopted nephews from Guatemala. The agency hasn't lost its license yet as far as we know. It has already worked 10 years or so with the region. There were never any problems. We're working with them now on one adoption case. But it's probable it will be postponed."