Christina Glennchristianaglenn

Christina Glenn was an 8 year old girl that lived in New York with her sister, brother, mother and a roommate. Christina suffered at the hands of her own mother while the roommate sat back and let it happen. Christina was starved and beaten with boards, sticks and hands. Her autopsy report stated that she had died from severe malnutrition and a fractured femur that went untreated. Both the other children were removed from her care and stayed in the hospital due to malnutrition and other injuries. New Jersey's Department of Children and Families were contacted several times about the care of the children but each time the agency determined that the tips were "unfounded".

By Samantha Henry
State child welfare officials determined allegations of child abuse to be unfounded on four separate visits to a New Jersey home where a child was found dead over the weekend from severe malnutrition and an untreated leg fracture.

Eight-year-old Christina Glenn was pronounced dead at the scene by medics who responded with police Sunday afternoon to a report of a child not breathing.

An autopsy showed she died from severe malnutrition and a fractured femur that had not been treated or attended to. Her mother, 30-year-old Venette Ovilde, a Haitian national from Irvington, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.

Ovilde's roommate, Myriam Janvier, 23, also originally from Haiti, has been charged with child endangerment. Prosecutors did not know if the women have retained lawyers yet for a first court appearance scheduled for next week.

Glenn's 7-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother were removed from the home and hospitalized because they suffered from malnutrition and other injuries, authorities said.

The children remained hospitalized Tuesday. A report on the case from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families shows the agency was first contacted in March 2006 on an allegation that Glenn's mother neglected her.

A month later, they investigated a complaint that the child's mother physically abused her.

Both incidents were determined by workers to be unfounded, but the case remained open for supervision and service until March 2007. In January 2008, the agency received a new complaint that the mother had beaten her child after the girl wet her bed.

An investigation determined the allegation to be unfounded. And in April 2008, allegations that the mother physically abused her three children and left them unattended were also determined by child welfare authorities to be unfounded. The case was closed on May 1, 2008.

Agency spokeswoman Lauren Kidd said the Department of Children and Families was conducting "a thorough investigation of our history with the family and these incidents, as we do with all child deaths." Published: Sunday June 5,2011
IRVINGTON — From their beds at a Newark hospital, the little boy and his sister described an existence defined by routine.

There were prayers four times a day.

There were beatings, some delivered with open hands, others with a cord, a stick or a block of wood.

Mornings and afternoons, they were tied to a radiator in a lightless pantry, the only toilet a bucket.

At night, they slept on the floor.

And always, there was hunger, so painful and profound they cried aloud for food.

Six-year-old Solomon Glenn and his 7-year-old sister, Christina, gave the account to child welfare workers May 24, two days after their older sister was found dead, a victim of the same wretched conditions that left all three children too brittle-boned and feeble to walk.

Their story, told for the first time in their own voices, is found in a court petition filed late last month by the state Division of Youth and Family Services.

The agency is seeking custody of Solomon and Christina from their mother, Venette Ovilde, charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of 8-year-old Christiana Glenn. A roommate, Myriam Janvier, is charged with child endangerment.

The document, reviewed by The Star-Ledger, amounts to a catalog of misery set against a backdrop of cultlike religious zealotry.

The petition details the children’s litany of injuries past and present, from scars to broken bones. It recounts the hours after police and paramedics arrived at the Irvington apartment, a scene so grim the responding medical examiner broke down in tears for the first time in his career.

It suggests Janvier played a larger role in the abuse than authorities have let on, allegedly taking part in the beatings.

And it includes DYFS’ history with the family, raising new questions about the agency’s decision to close its case on Ovilde in 2008 after receiving four separate complaints over two years. In each instance, allegations of physical abuse and neglect were deemed unfounded.

To Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of the Newark-based group Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the DYFS investigations into Ovilde were not nearly aggressive enough, given the nature and specificity of the complaints.

"These were serious allegations of physical abuse," said Zalkind, who was briefed on the petition’s contents. "It sounds like the DYFS worker went out, spoke to the mother, found no signs of visible abuse, and that was it. How else could it be unfounded? ... How many times does the division need to get a referral from the neighbors and not link them?"


A spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families, DYFS’ parent agency, declined to address the document’s details. DYFS officials previously have said they completed a medical history on everyone in the home, ordered Ovilde to undergo a psychiatric assessment and provided furniture for the family.

"Every allegation of child abuse and neglect is taken very seriously by the Division of Youth and Family Services and receives a thorough investigation and assessment," said the spokeswoman, Lauren Kidd. "Our investigation into this tragedy is ongoing."

Ovilde, 29, and Janvier, 23, pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday. They remain in the Essex County jail.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray declined to say if she will seek to add or upgrade the charges against Janvier based on the court petition’s allegations. She also declined to discuss whether her office will seek to charge the mysterious pastor who led Ovilde and Janvier in a tiny, self-styled religious sect he called "Walking With Christ."

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• Irvington women plead not guilty to child endangerment charges in death of 8-year-old girl

• Women charged with child endangerment in death of Irvington girl, 8, appear in court

• Mother of Irvington girl who died of untreated broken leg to make court appearance

• For 8-year-old Irvington girl who died, a short life bereft of toys, fun

• Pastor's sway over his followers stirs questions as police probe Irvington girl's death

• Reports of neglect made against mother of Irvington girl who died, but charges not substantiated

• Death of Irvington girl, 8, remains under investigation

• Two Irvington women accused of not feeding children after 8-year-old is found dead

• Death of 8-year-old Irvington girl ruled a homicide

• 8-year-old girl found dead in Irvington


The man, Emanyel Rezireksyon Kris, visited Ovilde’s Chancellor Avenue apartment daily to lead prayer services, persuaded the women to break off family relationships and oversaw the transformation of the home into a Spartan, white-washed shrine, according to neighbors and relatives of the suspects.

Under the rules set down by Rezireksyon Kris, meals were to be soup and bread, with long periods of fasting.

The children called him "Prophete Kris," the petition states. Translated from Creole, the language of Ovilde’s native Haiti, it means "Prophet Christ."

Christina and Solomon remain hospitalized.


Christiana Glenn lay on the floor beside a radiator. She was beyond help.

Ovilde told police her oldest daughter had taken a nap around 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 22, according to the petition. The mother said she called 911 when, more than three hours later, she realized Christiana wasn’t breathing.

That was the first lie.

Two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation say Christiana might have been dead for up to 24 hours before Ovilde summoned help. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

A white frock — garb common to all members of the sect — covered the girl’s emaciated body. She wore a diaper. Bandages and a plastic bag had been wrapped around her bruised left leg. An autopsy would later determine the leg was badly broken, contributing to Christiana’s death.

Ovilde, the document states, told investigators her daughter had fallen in the bathtub days earlier. She was asked if she had taken Christiana to a doctor. No, she said.

"The mother does not believe in medical treatment," the petition states.

She was asked about her other children. Ovilde said they were at an apartment on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth — the apartment rented by Rezireksyon Kris.

That was the second lie.

One of the emergency responders — whom the petition does not name — noticed a set of doors off the main room. An unclasped padlock hung from the handles. Ovilde, threatened with a court order, opened them.


Inside the small pantry, Solomon and Christina, "tiny and malnourished," lay next to an empty breadbox. Like their dead sister, they wore diapers and were dressed in white.

On the shelves, investigators found white plastic ties "that the mother was using to tie the children’s hands and legs up, to keep them in one place," the document states. To investigators, the ties explained the ligature marks on the children’s arms and ankles.

A yellow rope had been fastened to the pantry’s radiator. Ovilde told police she tethered the children to the radiator for their "safety."

Neither child could walk, according to the petition, and Solomon told investigators his neck hurt. He asked for bread.

Later, at the hospital, doctors would determine Solomon had a fractured arm, three broken toes and "old healed loop marks" on the back of his thighs.

Christina had a broken bone in her hand. Scars and dark marks, indicating previous beatings, were found on her back, buttocks and leg, the document states.

The apartment, without gas or electricity and swathed in white sheets and blankets, contained an altar and a poster board filled with writing in Creole. Among the words were "people" and "full moon," according to the petition.

DYFS employees and police found scant evidence of food: onions, flour, salt and rolls gone hard with age.

To the medical examiner who responded to the apartment, the children’s conditions were almost too much to bear.

In a phone conversation with a DYFS screener, the doctor became too emotional to continue.

"He noted that this was the first time he ever cried on a scene," the petition states.


The days began with prayer.

In an interview with two DYFS employees at Beth Israel Medical Center on May 24, Solomon and Christina said the children had been taught to pray directly after waking. Neighbors have said they heard loud chanting from the apartment shortly after dawn.

They were given a bath by their "light-skinned mother," a reference to Janvier, then served heavily salted soup, with a little bread mixed in, and hot tea "that sometimes burned," according to the custody petition filed by DYFS. They prayed again.

In the hours that followed, they would be left alone, tied to the radiator. If they needed a bathroom, "we used the bucket," Christina said.

Where Ovilde and Janvier went on a daily basis remains unclear. Some neighbors said they would see them selling Haitian cakes on the street in Elizabeth. Often, they were in the presence of Rezireksyon Kris.

Theresa Ayers, director of Dove Community Childcare Academy, where all three siblings were cared for as toddlers, said she saw Ovilde less than two months ago, walking in lockstep behind another woman, likely Janvier, on Chancellor Avenue.

To Ayers, who had known Ovilde before her self-professed "spiritual awakening" in 2008, the sight seemed eerie.

"I stopped my car and was like, ‘What is wrong?’ " Ayers said. "It wasn’t like me following you. It was like they were mummies. ... Like a ritual. They were very solemn."

When Ovilde and Janvier returned at night, the children would be served bread and "rafreche," a drink made from boiled vegetables or fruit, the petition states. Then, with the arrival of Rezireksyon Kris, they would study the Bible and pray again. Following a dinner of soup, they prayed one last time and went to bed.

The meager servings weren’t nearly enough to sustain them. Slowly, they withered away, malnutrition weakening their bones.

"Solomon said they were so hungry and they would cry for food, but no food was given to them," the petition states.

When the children could no longer walk, they crawled across the apartment, leaving dark, callused patches on their knees. Often, they told the caseworkers, they were simply dragged by the arms.

Asked about discipline, they said Ovilde and Janvier beat them with their hands, a cord, sticks and "bwa," Creole for wood.


It was Rezireksyon Kris who told the women not to hit the children, Christina and Solomon said. When the robed figure was at the apartment, they were not struck, nor were they tied to the radiator, they said.

By all accounts, Rezireksyon Kris had become a key figure in their lives. At one point in the hospital interview, Christina referred to him as her father.

The children’s biological father, Shakyieal Glenn, and Ovilde divorced in 2005. Though he has not been involved with his son and daughters, he recently told The Star-Ledger he has paid child support since the marriage ended. He also said that had he known of the children’s worsening condition or religious indoctrination, he would have intervened.

Relatives and friends of Ovilde and Janvier said Rezireksyon Kris home-schooled the children in addition to providing them with his brand of religious education.

On the day Christiana was reported dead, he visited the apartment three times, Christina told her DYFS interviewers. During one visit, Rezireksyon Kris tried to wake Christiana "but could not," according to the petition.

By the time police arrived, he was gone.

Rezireksyon Kris, who legally changed his name from Andre Wilkens in August of last year, has declined to speak to The Star-Ledger. He is in the process of opening a Haitian-style bakery on North Avenue in Union, just across the border from his Elizabeth home.

Relatives of Ovilde and Janvier contend he "brainwashed" the women and blame him for the children’s plight. A longtime friend dismisses such claims, calling him a "good man."

Wisline Andre, 34, a nurse’s aide who lives in Elizabeth, said she has known Rezireksyon Kris for some two decades, since both lived in Port-au-Prince. Originally, they lived in Artibonite, a rural region in the north of Haiti.

Andre said Rezireksyon Kris, 37, first came to the United States around the time she did, some 16 years ago. She said that as far as she knew, her friend was unmarried and had no children.

Andre spoke to The Star-Ledger with her husband, Carlos Guillaume. Both declined to characterize the type of faith practiced by Rezireksyon Kris, saying devotion to God is a universal theme that spans denominations.

"He just wants people to know the Bible," Andre said. "It’s the same Bible. There is nothing strange — only that he wears white."

Andre and Guillaume, who do not wear the garments associated with the sect, characterized Rezireksyon Kris as a sort of freelance pastor, checking in on the spiritual needs and well-being of friends and acquaintances. Andre said she speaks with him about three times a week.

"Sometimes he comes here to pray, when I have a problem with my husband," she said.

He also occasionally chides her for wearing skirts he deems too short, saying "Why you show off like that?" Andre said.

The couple said Rezireksyon Kris has never tried to recruit them into his congregation and that they had never met Ovilde or Janvier.

"If he is implicated with what happened, then he is responsible," said Guillaume, 42. "But just because he prayed with this woman, it doesn’t mean he knew or had anything to do with it."


While it’s clear Ovilde’s religious conversion brought change to her children, it’s equally clear she was a troubled mother long before she met Rezireksyon Kris.

Interviews with family members and friends, along with a review of DYFS documents, show Christiana, Christina and Solomon were often hungry and dirty.

Darnel Henry, manager of the Eden Cove Day Care Center in Irvington, said she noticed right away how emaciated Christina and Solomon were when they came into the facility’s care in October 2006. It was not clear where Christiana was at the time.

"They ate anything you put in front of them," Henry said.

Solomon, who could barely walk at age 2, was fed as many as four times a day at the center, she said. Christina snatched food from the table, as if afraid she wouldn’t eat again, Henry said.

She said she raised the issue with Ovilde, who provided an explanation. Henry said she could not disclose details of their conversations because they were confidential.

Speaking generally, Henry said Ovilde "never had any money." The children’s tuition at Eden Cove came from Programs for Parents, a state-funded child care resource. Ovilde pulled the children out of the center in June 2007, when Henry asked her to begin paying tuition.

No one at Eden Cove filed a complaint with DYFS, Henry said, noting she never saw injuries on the children.

Between 2006 and 2008, at least four people did file complaints. In April 2006, a neighbor reported hearing Ovilde cursing at the children, followed by "numerous stomping, bumping and fighting sounds. Then the children would scream," according to the custody petition.

In another referral in January 2008, a neighbor reported that Ovilde, frustrated with potty-training failures, beat Christiana with a belt when she wet the bed.

Three months later, another person complained Ovilde regularly beat her kids and left them unattended.

"The referent reported that most people in the building just turn up their televisions when the mother beats the children," the petition recounts.

Each complaint was determined to be unfounded.


Today, there is plenty of regret to go around.

William Weathers, the family’s landlord, said he wishes he had known of the children’s dire condition.

Late last week, he stood before a makeshift memorial near the building. Balloons, posters, teddy bears and goodbye messages to Christiana had been tacked to a telephone pole.

"Given the right environment, she would’ve been something special," Weathers said softly.

He lowered his eyes to the ground.

"Taken so young."

By Ryan Hutchins, James Queally and Mark Mueller/The Star-Ledger

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