A former foster child who spent 12 years in the home of a man convicted of child sex crimes has filed a $15 million claim against two state agencies, saying they failed to protect him from years of physical and sexual abuse.
The claim, filed Wednesday by Tucson attorney Lynne Cadigan on behalf of “John Doe,” names as defendants the Arizona Departments of Child Safety and Economic Security, the directors of both agencies and several employees. DCS, when it was known as Child Protective Services, was once an agency under DES control.
The claim by “John Doe,” who recently turned 18, details more than a decade of abuse that highlights the state’s “failed child protection practices and policies,” according to the document.
Darren DaRonco, a DCS spokesman, said it’s the agency’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.
John Doe went to live with foster parents David Frodsham and his wife at their Sierra Vista home in 2004 and remained in their care until 2016, when federal agents arrested Frodsham for “operating a pornographic pedophile ring based in the home,” said the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.
In December 2016, Frodsham was sentenced to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of child sexual abuse and pornography. John Doe was identified as one of the victims in the federal case.
“David Frodsham utilized the State of Arizona and the foster care system to funnel innocent, vulnerable children into his home, so he could run a pedophile ring,” the claim said.
Frodsham physically and sexually abused John Doe “countless times” and also acted as the young man’s pimp, prostituting John Doe to other men in exchange for money. The claim said Frodsham often participated in the sexual encounters as well and “helped enable a network of pedophiles in the Sierra Vista area” who repeatedly abused John Doe.
In addition to physical abuse by Frodsham, John Doe also endured beatings and neglect by Frodsham’s wife, the claim said.
“(Frodsham’s wife) knew the sexual abuse was occurring, at times walking into the room as it was happening, yet took no steps to stop it,” the claim said. The claim said Frodsham’s wife routinely beat John Doe.
She refused to buy clothes for John Doe or feed him, screaming at him every time he would complain or try to protect himself, according to the claim.
The Frodshams forced John Doe to live outside the house most of the time, and when they left for work, they’d lock him out of the house. He was left with a bike to travel to a convenience store in case he needed to use the restroom, the claim said.
The neglect and abuse was documented by DCS, but still continued, the claim said.
“The foster and other children ... were forced to eat hot sauce as punishment, handcuffed to the bed all night, locked outside the home and locked in closets,” the claim said. “John Doe and the other boys were beaten with fists, brooms, belts and other objects to the extent that medical care was frequently required.”
In an internal DCS document obtained by the Star, one caseworker noted in March 2007 that the Frodshams admitted to handcuffing John Doe one night, after he had gotten out of his room.
“The Frodshams did not hide the fact that they used the handcuffs and notified the agency immediately,” the progress report said, adding that the only “corrective action” to be taken against the Frodshams would be a review of policies and a “stern warning that this is inappropriate behavior and against policy.”
The progress notes document other instances of abuse, with witnesses reporting seeing Frodsham’s wife slapping her foster children in the face and forcing them to go to bed without dinner.
DCS had access to more than 38 police reports from the Frodsham house, dated between 2002 and 2016 — all prior to Frodsham’s arrest for child abuse.
“The state should have reviewed these as part of their licensing of the foster/adoptive parent program,” the claim says. “John Doe complained to (DCS) over 16 times and nothing was done.”
DCS also documented at least 10 abuse and neglect complaints against the Frodshams between 2002 and 2015.
“Children in abusive homes rarely can report the abuse, as if they do they are beaten again,” the claim said. “This is exactly what happened to John Doe.”
DCS should have intervened because John Doe was “completely vulnerable” to the Frodshams and helpless against their abuse, according to the claim.
In addition to police reports and DCS documents, there was also information that showed that Frodsham was an unsuitable foster and adoptive parent, the claim said.
Frodsham briefly worked with the Department of Defense in Afghanistan, but was kicked out and relieved from duty due to sexual harassment and a military assessment that shows he had an “unalterable personality disorder,” according to the claim.
If John Doe had been the biological child of the Frodshams, the state would have removed him from the home based on the allegations of neglect and abuse, according to the claim.
“Instead, the state left John Doe in the foster/adoptive home, and the Frodshams received a monthly stipend from the state to abuse him,” the claim said.
The claim provides a list of 10 ways in which DCS and its employees failed to prevent John Doe’s abuse, which includes gross negligence and deliberate indifference by failing to investigate the claims of abuse and neglect in the Frodsham home.
“There were numerous deliberate and negligent failings in the state in this case, as despite constant DCS presence and reports and complaints, the Frodshams were allowed to traffic their children for sex and pornography, abuse and beat the children in horrific ways, and yet blame it all on the children,” the claim said.
John Doe has both physical and emotional scars from his years of abuse and will continue to suffer “permanent and devastating” emotional damage, the claim said.
In addition to the $15 million the claim is seeking, John Doe also wants to change the way DCS operates and send a message to the state to protect children in its care, according to the claim.
”The Department of Child Safety must be held accountable for the abuse this child has suffered,” Cadigan told the Star. “How could such horrific abuse occur on their watch?”
The state entrusted vulnerable children into Frodsham’s care and paid him “substantial taxpayer funds” while he trafficked those foster children into his pedophile ring, Cadigan said.
”This case is one of the worst cases of neglect and torture I have seen in my 35 years of experience,” Cadigan said. “The suffering this child has endured is unimaginable.”