Friday, July 17, 2009

Children Deserve Better

by Diane Fanning

Richard McFarland murdered his wife Susan (left) during Thanksgiving week, 2002 and burned her body at an abandoned farm in rural Bexar County. He told their three sons, ages 5, 9, and 11, "Mommy needed a break from you because you are so bad."

After Richard went to prison, the oldest boy was adopted into one home and the other two children were adopted by their fundamentalist, evangelical foster parents, Roy and Judi Block. The world wished the boys well--they deserved a safe and loving environment.
Unfortunately, all was not well in the Block home. The two youngest boys gained a dangerous sibling, Sean Michael Block (below left), the biological child of Roy and Judi. Sean was a married adult but he had free and easy access into his parents' house.

On May 29, 2009, after a short two-hour deliberation, the jury found Sean Block guilty of aiding and abetting his girlfriend,
Jennifer Richards, in an attempt to sell her five-year-old daughter for sexual purposes. He also was found guilty on another charge of distributing pornography.

Sean first came to the attention of authorities in 2004 when he made contact with a Los Angeles Police Department detective who was posing as a teen aged girl on-line. Block popped up on investigators' radar again in 2006. But it wasn't until August, 2008, that they had gathered sufficient evidence to arrest Block and his girlfriend, a former Phoenix stripper.

Sean Block came to the attention of William Gholson, owner of
Billy Bob's Beds in San Antonio, who was working as an FBI informant in their crack down on child pornography. Gholson played the role of an older man seeking sex with children. He received a text message from Block: "Nice piece 5 yrs old belongs to my gf and she wants to sell it." In another message, Block referred to the little girl as "our little play toy."

Jennifer Richards met with William Gholson and agreed to grant sexual access to her 5-year-old because she wanted to train her daughter how to perform sex acts "'cause I want her to be comfortable with it all." Jennifer also said that her 10-month-old girl might be available later.

Block and Richards negotiated a filthy bargain: Jennifer's daughter would be available for sex acts, photographs and videotape in exchange for $300, a used Toyota Corolla and rent payment on the two-bedroom apartment where the young child would be victimized.

The relationship between Block and Richards was dark and violent. Prosecutors revealed the contents of their on-line chats and emails discussing their sado-masochistic sex preferences, their desire to have sex with both of Jennifer's daughters, Sean's scheme to blackmail Gholson after the assault of the 5-year-old and his plan to abduct, rape and cut up the face of a female teenage runaway.

Jennifer Richards (right) pled guilty, testifying that she only agreed to the sale of her daughter because of pressure from and fear of Block. The prosecution supported her statement saying that Block "...found someone broken, pathetic with children and who is open sexually..." and browbeat her into submissiveness. He made Jennifer drink his urine and have sex with other men for money. "He was grooming her to deliver her children to.." a predator. In court, Prosecutor Wannarka backed this up by reading one of Block's messages to Richards: "Don't ever for a second forget who owns you."

In return for her plea, Jennifer received a reduced sentence of twenty years in federal
prison--where typical convicts serve 85% of their time--followed by ten years of probation and registration as a sex offender when she is released. Sean Michael Block faces thirty years to life on the attempted sale of the child along with five to twenty years on the child pornography distribution charge. Judge Harry Lee Husdpeth will sentence him at the end of this month. We can only hope he will give Block the maximum on both counts.

Prosector Wannarka told the San Antonio Express News, "Children are safer because Sean Block and Jennifer Richards are in jail." And she is right.

But what about Sean Block's parents? Did they demonstrate poor judgment when they allowed their son Sean to be a frequent visitor to the home where they cared for a number of foster children and adopted others including Susan McFarland's two sons. Wouldn't staunch believers with strong moral recognize his moral depravity? And yet, these children under their roof--kids who were already harmed by previous tragedy or abuse in their lives--were exposed to this dangerous man. Is that responsible parenting?

Who knows what damage may have been done to Susan's boys or the other children? Did the Blocks turn a blind eye to their son's disturbed and violent desires? The presence of Sean in their home raises questions about their fitness to foster and adopt children. It also raises concerns about Roy Block's position as the Executive Director of the Texas Foster Family Association. The message that connection delivers is troubling.

I wrote about Susan McFarland and her sons long before this problem with the Block's son came to light. If you are interested in their story, you'll find it in Gone Forever from St. Martin's Press.


Tamfish said...

Good lord, I feel like puking.

What happened to Jennifer's daughters? Are they safe now?????

Rose said...

ditto all of the above. I used to be a CPS caseworker in the State of Texas. There is no good answer for these kids.

Diane Fanning said...

Yes, Ramfish, Jennifer's daughters are being cared for by her parents who are appalled at what happened. Fortunately, medical examinations indicated that neither girl was raped but the thought of what they may have witnessed makes me ill, too.

A caseworker for the state, Rose? That's a very tough job. I've seen it rip the caring out of some people.

Maryann Miller said...

What a tragic story. I just can't wrap my mind around the concept of how cruel and abusive some people can be with children.

FleaStiff said...

Maybe I'm just jaded, but is there really any expectation that foster parents become foster parents for any reason not related to financial advantage or sexual advantage?

piper said...

Thank you for the followup on this story Diane. I've read your book and it was very interesting.

Diane Fanning said...

FleaStiff, I hope you're not right but the news makes it look very bad.
Thank you, Piper.

Jan C, said...

For every bad apple foster parent there are many more who provide a safe and loving environment for abused children.

My parents took care of more than 30 foster children over the years. Children who had been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by their biological parents.

Many of those kids stayed in touch with my parents after they became adults. My mom and dad gave them love and support they never would have had if it hadn't been for our home. Our foster home.

I will never forget the faces of those kids.

Diane Fanning said...

Thank you for speaking up, Jan C. It's good to hear.

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