A Las Vegas woman faces a possible life sentence after jurors found her guilty of imposing years of abuse on her three adopted children.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Hamner said jurors made the right decision Tuesday when they convicted Janet Solander of all 46 counts she faced.
“What she did was inexcusable, unjustifiable, and it’s horrifying to think that a parent would do that to their daughters,” the prosecutor said.
Solander, who authored a book that was critical of Child Protective Services, could receive a life prison term for nearly three years of continual abuse that prosecutors said she carried out “just to hurt,” “just to humiliate” and “just to cause pain.”
Throughout a month of testimony and in closing arguments to jurors on Monday, prosecutors also criticized the state’s Division of Child and Family Services for not responding more quickly to signs of trouble within the home.
“Janet abused these kids, and CPS failed them,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth said. “She doesn’t get a pass because CPS can’t do their job”
‘Stranger to the Truth’
The prosecutor said Solander regularly lied to case workers and even fabricated a biography on the jacket of her book, “Foster Care: How to Fix this Corrupted System,” falsely claiming she was a registered nurse with multiple degrees.
“She is literally a stranger to the truth,” Bluth said.
Defense attorney Caitlyn McAmis pointed out that the children were abandoned by their mother and abused by their grandmother before Solander adopted them.
The lawyer dismissed much of the testimony, saying it came from “troubled girls,” and said they had concocted inexact stories of abuse at the hands of Solander because “they didn’t want to go home,” where they were not allowed to watch television or drink soda.
McAmis argued that the girls converted experiences with their biological family to “larger-than-life allegations” against Solander.
She forced the girls — then ages 9 through 12 — to sleep on hard floors, sit on paint buckets and stand in trash bags for hours. She smacked them with a paint stir stick, slammed one girl’s head into a counter and burned another with hot water.
“No one forced her to do this, no one,” Hamner told the jury.
Sexual assault charges
The sexual assault charges stemmed from allegations that Solander unnecessarily used a catheter on the girls.
“There is no defense,” Hamner said. “Janet Solander had no right or reason to do this.”
McAmis flatly rejected the use of a catheter, saying that a photo prosecutors presented as evidence could have been used by Solander as a “scare tactic.”
“You don’t have any credible evidence that a catheter was used in the home,” McAmis said. “How do you know that wasn’t just a stock photo from the internet?”
Prosecutors showed copies of receipts indicating that Dwight Solander bought six catheters.
While conceding that Janet Solander was “not a good match” for the girls and became “creative with her efforts to modify behavior,” her attorney downplayed physical discipline, such as the use of paint stir sticks, and suggested the girls were highly troubled before they entered the Solander home.
“Janet Solander was not best equipped to deal with these girls, but it does not make her guilty of these offenses,” McAmis said. “Everything Janet did, she did out of a genuine desire to help these girls.”
Many calls but no action
At least five investigators from Child Protective Services responded to more than a dozen calls but took no action on reports that three adopted girls were being abused in the Las Vegas home, prosecutors said.
Foster children in the home told investigators that the girls were treated like prisoners.
Bluth said Solander told investigators that the girls had medical problems, but the mother had no proof.
Last month, Dwight Solander pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse with substantial bodily harm. He faces decades behind bars.
Agents investigated complaints from three girls living in the Solander home at least three years before the former foster parents were arrested, according to court records.
Family Services officials have said the Solanders were licensed as foster parents in 2010 and that the department later revoked that license.