Parents of missing boy in court on theft charge

07/30/2010 12:00 AM

07/31/2010 12:41 AM

EL DORADO — Doug and Valerie Herrman made their first appearance in court today to hear the felony theft charge against them alleging fraudulent receipt of an adoption subsidy for their son Adam for years after he disappeared.

The Herrmans now face a Sept. 23 preliminary hearing on the theft charge.

They each have received a court-appointed attorney after filing affidavits saying their assets and income are limited.

The theft charges and court appearance are the latest developments in the Adam Herrman mystery. He disappeared from his Towanda mobile home, at age 11, in 1999. But authorities didn't learn of his disappearance until late 2008.

Butler County Attorney Jan Satterfield has said the Herrmans are suspects in his disappearance and presumed death.

The theft charges, filed earlier this month, are related to the alleged fraudulent receipt of $52,800 in government assistance for Adam's care.

The couple continued to submit subsidy forms saying the boy lived in their home and continued to claim him as a dependent on income tax returns and in court documents for six years after his disappearance, the charges state.

Trevor Riddle, an attorney who had represented Doug Herrman before Herrman received an appointed attorney, said after the charges were filed that the accusation is a "technical financial charge" and that the Herrmans will "vigorously seek dismissal" of the charges.

The Herrmans, in their 50s and living in Grove, Okla., have been released after each posted a $50,000 bond on the theft charges.

The Herrmans adopted Adam when he was about 2. He would be 23 now.

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 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 said she tried to find him partly because she was concerned about the way he had been treated growing up.

After she expressed concerns about him to authorities, Butler County investigators began digging in the mobile home park, searching for human remains. Using search dogs, they also probed in woods along the Whitewater River.

No trace of him has been found.

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