Before being submerged in scalding water, allegedly by the woman who recently adopted her, a Tucson 5-year-old lived with a foster father now imprisoned for sex crimes against children.
The girl, who is in critical condition, had been shuttled from one troubled home life to another before 911 responders found her severely burned on Dec. 29.
State authorities had removed her from her biological parents and placed her, as a toddler, in the Sierra Vista home of David Frodsham, where she lived with other foster children from 2013 until January 2015.
Frodsham was arrested in 2016 after federal authorities accused him of sexual misconduct with children and of providing at least one child to an alleged child pornographer, Randall Bischak, for sexual contact. The foster father eventually pleaded guilty to counts involving a child over age 15, in return for prosecutors dropping other charges. The names of child sex victims are not public record and would not be published by the Arizona Daily Star.
Previous reports on his case quote a federal criminal complaint as saying Bischak and Frodsham allegedly met for consensual sex with children present.
The biological mother of the Tucson child says she raised concerns with state workers that while living in Frodsham’s home, her toddler daughter had repeated urinary-tract infections, which can be a sign of sexual abuse in children, but says those concerns went unanswered.
From Frodsham’s home, the little girl had to commute nearly 90 minutes each way to see her biological parents in Tucson. She initially would “cry until she fell asleep” after she left her parents, said Beth Breen, a former taxi driver for children in state custody. Breen took the child back and forth for nearly a year, ending in March 2014.
The little girl would scream in fear around strange men, Breen said, making it nearly impossible for male drivers to take her, and so Breen said she became her regular driver. Breen would sing to her and the girl would watch movies on a DVD player Breen bought for the drive.
Breen has had trouble sleeping since she realized, about a week ago, that the little girl in the news was the toddler she’d transported.
After the recent news reports, Breen looked up the child’s adoptive parents on social media and saw family photographs that confirmed her fears: This was the same girl she had known.
“We spent a lot of time together. We would sing songs and play ‘I spy,’” Breen said. “I would know that child anywhere. I have always had a special place in my heart for her.”
Arizona Department of Child Safety records show that the girl’s biological mother, Michelle Tremor-Calderon, was nearly reunified with the child before her parental rights were terminated in 2015.
What Calderon desperately wants now — and she has asked Tucson attorney Lynne Cadigan to help her — is to see her hospitalized daughter and, if the little girl is not going to survive, to say goodbye.
The child was adopted last summer by Samantha and Justin Osteraas and given a new name, law enforcement records and accounts on social media show.
Samantha Osteraas, 28, was arrested Jan. 5 after the girl suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of her body, from the upper chest down, sheriff’s records show. Osteraas might have waited up to six hours to seek medical treatment, court records say. She told 911 dispatchers she didn’t realize she was bathing her daughter in scalding water.
Deputies also noted bruises to the child’s neck and left arm, and saw blood and signs of trauma on her upper lip. Hours after the incident, the 5-year-old was reported to be in respiratory and organ failure. She remains at Banner-University Medical Center in a medically induced coma.
DCS spokesman Darren DaRonco said Samantha Osteraas did not have a history as a perpetrator with the child-welfare agency before this case.
After the arrest, the DCS removed the Osteraas’ three young biological children from the family’s home near North Shannon Road and West Lambert Lane. It is unclear whether they have been reunified with their father.
Samantha Osteraas, charged with two counts of child abuse, was released Thursday from the Pima County jail on a bond of $25,000.
Calderon learned a little more than a week ago that the hospitalized girl was the child she’d lost. Calderon has not seen her daughter since July 2015, but, like Breen, looked up the adoptive parents on social media and saw her daughter in their family photos.
The girl was taken from her in April 2013 following a domestic fight between Calderon and the child’s father, Jonathan Hileman. She remained in foster care while her parents, who struggled with cocaine addiction, worked toward reunification.
The girl’s father, who is a registered sex offender from a 1999 crime involving an adult victim, had failed to notify police about his new address, and that was another factor in their case, at least initially.
Throughout the dependency case, Hileman continued to relapse while Calderon began to sustain her sobriety, reports show.
As of May 2014, Calderon was moving toward reunification with her daughter when she violated a court order by letting the father, who was not allowed unsupervised visitation, to be at home with them.
The couple tried to remedy that significant error by later separating, records show. In February 2015, Hileman relinquished his parental rights. Calderon said he did this primarily to help her regain custody of their daughter.
A couple of months later, in April 2015, court records showed Calderon to be in full compliance with her case plan. But the behavior of their then-3-year-old child was deteriorating around this time, DCS records show. She had prolonged temper tantrums, urinated on herself and cried for prolonged periods after her visits.
The child’s caseworker and a DCS-appointed family therapist testified this was because the child was having difficulty relating to her mother, that the mother had “inappropriate conversations” in front of the child and “didn’t know how to meet her daughter’s emotional needs.”
In the end, a judge severed Calderon’s parental rights based on her violating the court’s orders related to Hileman, the length of time the child had been in out-of-home care without successful reunification — well beyond the nine months required by law — and the “serious negative behaviors” the child would exhibit around her mother but reportedly would not display when away from her.
Calderon tried to appeal the termination, but was not successful.
“They took her away,” she said last week, “and look what they’ve done to her.”
Calderon repeatedly told Breen, the driver, that she thought something was wrong while her daughter lived in Sierra Vista. Calderon said she was always on the watch, fearful her daughter was being mistreated — so much so that it was brought up as a problem in her trial to sever her parental rights.
At one point, Calderon called Sierra Vista police to have a welfare check done at the house, and this was not well-received by the DCS, according to both the mother and DCS records.
“I did address my concerns to the case manager and she had no concerns,” Calderon said. “She told me the (Frodsham) home was a good home and nothing like that was going on there.”
The repeated urinary-tract infections, which records show were treated following medical visits, were blamed mostly on the child consuming too many sugary drinks.
Records show the caseworker thought it was Calderon who was teaching her daughter to fear men and told her to stop more than once.
Breen, who also thought the Frodsham home seemed like a safe placement, said she feels guilty she didn’t take Calderon’s fears more seriously.
“When I was transporting her, her mom kept saying, ‘Something’s not right, something’s not right,’” Breen said. “I kept reassuring her that it seemed like a good home.”
Frodsham was licensed to have up to five foster children at a time, male and female, with the ages ranging from birth to 11, the DCS reported. DCS officials said they could not comment further on the case.
Breen said several foster children of various ages were living in the home when Calderon’s child was there, including one other toddler. Frodsham was licensed as a foster parent in Arizona from 2002 until January 2015, when he was arrested on charges of aggravated drunk driving. His license was then suspended due to suspension of his fingerprint clearance card.
Frodsham was later charged with sex crimes after federal authorities, in 2016, alerted Sierra Vista police about his alleged involvement with Bischak, a former U.S. Army specialist. The Department of Homeland Security was investigating Bischak for allegedly producing and distributing child pornography.
Frodsham, who was indicted on seven counts related to sex crimes against children, pleaded guilty in June 2016 to three counts, including two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and attempted sexual conduct with a minor, said Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre.
Frodsham is now serving a 17-year prison sentence with the Arizona Department of Corrections and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
There is an investigation pending on Bischak in Cochise County, but that’s on hold until his federal case is done. Bischak was indicted on multiple counts of child pornography in a case pending in U.S. District Court in Tucson.
Calderon has a small collection of photographs from her visits with her daughter, along with photos she collected of bruises and scratched feet she feared indicated her daughter was being mistreated in foster care.
Months after her rights to her daughter had been severed, she learned about Frodsham’s arrest.
She agonized over that, thinking — until now — it was the worst news she could ever hear.
Contact reporter Patty Machelor at email@example.com or 806-7754. On Twitter: @pattymachstar