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Missing boy's parents face felony theft charges

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, July 7, 2010, at 3:41 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, July 30, 2010, at 4:03 p.m.

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Doug and Valerie Herrman charged with felony theft

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EL DORADO — The adoptive parents of Adam Herrman, who disappeared from his Towanda home at age 11 more than a decade ago, were charged today with felony theft.

The charges are related to the alleged fraudulent receipt of over $50,000 in government assistance for Adam's care, according to Butler County Attorney Jan Satterfield.

Doug and Valerie Herrman, the adoptive parents, have each been charged with one count of theft.

Satterfield said she is still pursuing a homicide investigation and considers the Herrmans to be suspects.

Doug and Valerie Herrman each posted a $50,000 bond. The couple voluntarily went to the Butler County Jail in response to warrants that were issued against them.

Charges were filed today to avoid questions of whether the five year statute of limitations on the charges has expired. The Herrmans allegedly cashed the last adoption state subsidy check on July 8, 2005, according to Satterfield, six years after Adam's disappearance.

The boy disappeared in 1999, but Butler County authorities didn't learn of Adam's disappearance until late 2008.

Butler County officials are still pursing a homicide investigation and consider the Herrmans suspects in Adam's disappearance and death, Satterfield said during a 3:30 p.m. news conference.

"It is our belief that this is a homicide case... And Adam Herrman is dead," she said. "Our burden will be how he died" and who did it.

No trace of Adam has been found despite intensive searches of the mobile home park where the family once lived and the area around the Whitewater River.

"This is not the beginning and end. This is just the beginning for the Herrmans," she said of the charges.

A prosecution for murder may begin at any time, she said the news conference

The couple adopted Adam Herrman in 1989 when he was about 2.

In an interview with The Eagle early last year, Valerie Herrman said that in early May 1999, when Adam was 11, he ran away from their Towanda mobile home and didn't return after she spanked him with a belt. She said she didn't report him missing because she feared it would cause her and her husband to lose custody of Adam and their other children.

Relatives said that Valerie Herrman told them that Adam, who was being home-schooled, had been returned to state custody.

His disappearance came to light in late 2008 after an adoptive sister tried to find him to apologize for the way the boy had been treated growing up.

After she expressed concerns about him to authorities, Butler County investigators began digging in the mobile home park in Towanda, searching for human remains. Using search dogs, they also probed in woods along the Whitewater River, but no trace of Adam was found.

Adam would be 23 if he is still alive.

For more on this story see Kansas.com or Thursday's Eagle.

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