Defense attorney Charles Porter said that a 6-year-old Ethiopian boy adopted by a Franklin Park couple started out with a nicely decorated, fully equipped bedroom just like his siblings.
It was only after he defecated and urinated in it so much that Douglas and Kristen Barbour had to remove the furnishings and carpeting that it became barren, leaving the boy with only a mattress on the floor.
"You had the older child who had some serious issues," said Mr. Porter, who represents Douglas Barbour. "They tried to deal with it as much as they could."
The Barbours, who are charged with starving the boy and causing head trauma to a then 18-month-old girl, were slated to have a preliminary hearing in Leetsdale on Monday on charges they abused their two adopted children.
Defense attorneys asked for a delay when they learned that prosecutors from the Allegheny County district attorney's office had filed new charges.
The Barbours already were charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of children. In addition, each now faces two counts of reckless endangerment and another count of aggravated assault.
The couple were accused in September of abusing the two children they adopted from Ethiopia in March.
According to the criminal complaint, the 6-year-old boy was starving and had lesions on his body from being kept in urine-soaked clothing.
The criminal complaint said that his bedroom had no furnishings or decorations of any kind.
The girl suffered abusive head trauma and is blind in one eye and likely will be paralyzed, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Porter and Robert E. Stewart, who represents Kristen Barbour, said that they were blindsided by the new charges and had no indication of them after they spoke with prosecutors last week.
Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka had no comment.
Mr. Porter said it makes no sense that the Barbours abused their adopted children but not two biological children.
"They're very frustrated," he said of the couple. "Why would you adopt two children and abuse them when your own are fine?"
The attorneys were critical of how the allegations against their clients have been handled.
For instance, they said, the doctors who treated the children will accept some of the information provided by the Barbours, but not all of it.
"It's a selective use of what they told the doctors," Mr. Porter said.
Mr. Stewart believes that hospital records will show that the boy was taken to the hospital for treatment because his parents were worried about his weight loss.
"It's absurd they were starving him," he said.
According to the criminal complaint, the boy weighed 46 pounds, 8 ounces when he arrived in the United States in March. On Sept. 14 when he was admitted to the hospital, he weighed just over 37 pounds. After five days in the hospital, he gained about 7 pounds without any medical treatment.
Both lawyers said the Barbours dispute the allegations against them and added that they needed time to prepare for the new counts before going forward with the preliminary hearing.
The new date is Jan. 18.
According to the two attorneys, the Barbours have been able to have supervised visitation with their two biological children, and that matter is still ongoing in family court.
They have not had contact with the adopted children.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620. First Published November 20, 2012 5:00 AM