Abuse investigations spread over 20 years

On April 27, 1990, Colleen Rimer sat down with Las Vegas police and explained how her baby girl wound up at the hospital with a broken limb.

That was almost 20 years before she and her husband, Stanley, were charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of their 4-year-old son, Jason.

The interview with police didn't end with an arrest. The Department of Family Services also didn't substantiate any claims of abuse or neglect.

But the event offers a glimpse at one of more than 20 incidents involving allegations of abuse and neglect against the Rimers.

On Wednesday, Colleen Rimer, 40, and Stanley Rimer, 51, pleaded not guilty in District Court to second-degree murder and abuse and neglect charges.

The charges stem from the June 9 death of Jason, who was found dead inside the family SUV from environmental heat stress. He is believed to have been inside the vehicle for 17 hours.

The Rimers also face multiple counts of abuse and neglect involving their remaining children, ages 9 to 15.

Authorities said the children were living in a filthy home littered with animal feces. They had lice and were provided minimal food.

Prosecutor Vicki Monroe said Wednesday that the parents' upstairs bedroom was air conditioned and had its own refrigerator with food inside. She said one of the children had to go upstairs to ask his father for a piece of bread.

"It's reprehensible what went on in that home," she said, adding that Stanley Rimer threatened Child Protective Services workers when they investigated the family.

Senior Judge J. Charles Thompson, however, said Department of Family Services workers should have intervened before Jason's death.

"Sounds like they should have done something before now," he said.

Stanley Rimer's attorney, Tim O'Brien, argued that his client's bail should be lowered to $20,000 from $250,000. Stanley Rimer was ill and bedridden and was unaware of the situation developing with Jason, O'Brien said. Thompson declined the request.

Colleen Rimer's attorney, Michael Sanft, did not make any requests on her behalf.

The Department of Family Services had 21 contacts or referrals involving the Rimers since 1988. Fourteen referrals were unsubstantiated.

Las Vegas police investigated the Rimers in 1990 after their daughter was taken to a hospital with a broken limb. Colleen Rimer told police her daughter fell from a kitchen counter and then a chair fell on top of the baby, according to a transcript of the interview.

The child then slept for an hour but woke up crying. Colleen Rimer told police her daughter's leg was "very tender and starting to swell" and the child was in a lot of pain.

Stanley Rimer took their daughter to the hospital. Colleen Rimer stayed at home.

Colleen Rimer also admitted that she slapped her children's hands when they misbehaved, but "I never give them a bruise or anything," according to the transcript.

She also said Stanley Rimer spanked one of their children, but "felt bad about it because he didn't realize how hard he could hit with his hand," the transcript states.

Christine Skorupski, spokeswoman for the Department of Family Services, said workers investigated the 1990 allegations of abuse and found them to be unsubstantiated.

Skorupski said the department finished an internal case audit for Jason's death in the first week of July.

The audit, routinely performed whenever a child dies, will not be made public because it contains sensitive case information about the family, she said.

Skorupski wouldn't say whether the audit prompted any policy changes at the department. But she said the department, because of broad policy reviews, is changing the way it handles multiple complaints about a family.

When a family receives a third allegation of abuse or neglect similar to two other allegations, the department will review the two previous allegations.

It also will assign a unit that hadn't investigated the family to look into the new allegation.

Review-Journal writer Lawrence Mower contributed to this story. Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.