Louisville mother takes story of son's abuse to Frankfort

Penny Harbin
Penny Harbin
Bereket Haile
Bereket Haile
Kyle Harbin (Source: Family photo)
Kyle Harbin (Source: Family photo)
Sen. Julie Denton
Sen. Julie Denton

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Imagine finding out your autistic son was abused allegedly at the hands of the man you hired to protect him. A Louisville family lived through that nightmare and took its story to the state capitol to protect other families.

"Kris stopped eating and he was always your perfect eater," said Penny Harbin during an interview with WAVE 3 in September 2010.

Kris is now 14 years old. He is severely autistic and suffers from seizures, which is why she hired a caretaker to help. That man, 39-year-old Bereket Haile, is now charged with criminal abuse and criminal mischief.

Harbin says she and her husband set up a hidden camera in a stuffed animal and caught Haile hitting her son repeatedly in the head.

"I am his voice, his mother, his advocate, his best friend," Harbin told legislators in Frankfort.

Harbin testified in favor of a registry for adult abusers because Haile had taken care of an adult before her son, and if he had abused before, she have been able to protect her son, who she says hasn't been the same.

"If it would have been in place, it may not have happened," Harbin said after the hearing.

The registry would try to prevent abusers from getting other caretaking jobs.

"What you have are these individuals who are committing these acts against these adults and because they don't get prosecuted they can just go from job to job to job," said Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, sponsor and Health and Welfare Chair.

Some senators questioned the appeals process and feared innocent people could be put on the registry.

"I've gotta have some confidence and faith that this due process standard you mention is of high enough rigor," said Sen. David Givens of Allen County.

There is an appeals process, which could include the court system.

Sen. Katie Stine of Campbell said she wanted to make "sure that it is constitutional."

Others asked for more time and to take up the bill when there was more time.

"I do think that it needs more contemplation and consideration," said Sen. Joe Bowen of Daviess County.

The committee voted anyway, but Denton promised to get legislators more information before it goes to the floor.

"The Republicans in this room (who) were at least in the same caucus meeting I was in where we were told if bills don't come out of committee this week, don't count on them coming out of anywhere," said Denton. "So unless the committee wants to kill it, I would like to get it out of committee today."

The committee did pass the bill.

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