GROVE – A former Kansas couple who now live on Grand Lake have been charged with collecting welfare on their adopted son who has not been seen in more than 10 years.
Doug and Valerie Herrman were charged Wednesday in Butler County, Kan., District Court. They were released on $50,000 bail each and are scheduled to return to court July 14.
They are accused of accepting $52,800 in welfare payments they were not entitled to after their son Adam Herrman disappeared in 1999 when he was 11.
The Herrmans are "people of interest” in their son's disappearance, said Jan Satterfield, Butler County chief prosecutor.
According to the charges, Doug Herrman, 55, and Valerie Herrman, 53, falsely claimed Adam on their income tax returns. They continued to receive an adoption subsidy after his disappearance and failed to report to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services that the child was no longer living in their home.
The couple deny any wrongdoing, said Trevor Riddle, Doug Herrman's attorney. Riddle declined to comment on Adam's disappearance, saying he would address only the current charges.
"The charges address what are essentially allegations of a technical financial offense. Consistent with the facts of this case, Douglas and Valerie Herrman intend to enter pleas of not guilty and vigorously seek dismissal of these charges,” according to a statement released by Riddle and Warner Eisenbise, attorney for Valerie Herrman.
The investigation into Adam's disappearance is ongoing, Satterfield said. Prosecutors hope to have the investigation wrapped up by the end of the year and homicide charges possibly filed, Satterfield said.
Adam was last seen at a Towanda, Kan., mobile home park about 25 miles northeast of Wichita. He was reported missing by a relative in 2008. Butler County authorities searched the mobile home park and areas near the Whitewater River several times last year.
For nearly a year the couple have lived at King's Point Mobile Home Park on the Cowskin arm of Grand Lake. Angel statues adorn the front of the cream-colored mobile home. There were no cars parked at the home Thursday and neighbors said they had not seen the couple, who they said live with their teenage son and a daughter who is in her 20s.
Neighbors said they had heard the rumors about Adam but don't consider the couple a threat.
"They pretty much stick to themselves,” said Dakota Carrico of Joplin, Mo., who regularly visits his mother at the park.
"I have seen them outside four or five times,” said Jim Truitt, another neighbor.
After months of unemployment and selling their possessions to make ends meet, Doug Herrman had secured a job with a poultry company, neighbors said.
Adam, who had been their foster child, was adopted by the Herrmans when he was a toddler, Satterfield said.
Satterfield said the Herrmans received extra money from the state after a report showed Adam had special needs. She said after the Herrmans adopted three children, including Adam, they no longer served as foster parents.