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Couple who allegedly tied up adopted child with dog leash, kept her in 'dungeon room,' facing lawsuit

Olivia Atkocaitis, 20, says she survived 14 years of abuse and servitude at the hands of her adoptive parents before escaping at 15

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A New Hampshire couple convicted on criminal charges after allegedly keeping their adopted daughter in a locked basement and subjecting her to years of torture and "servitude" are now facing a lawsuit for allegedly violating her 13th Amendment rights. 

Chinese native Olivia Atkocaitis, now 20, allegedly dug her way out of a filthy "dungeon room" in 2018 at the age of 15 using a bottle cap, according to a lawsuit obtained by Fox News Digital.

"This lawsuit is potentially one of the scariest and gut wrenching experiences of my life," Atkocaitis said. "Day after day, I watched the people who claimed to be responsible for my safety and protection still not own up the fact that they failed me. I was a child, and I was not protected. I was left in the house by the same people who claim it’s not their fault."

After her adoption under China's "one-child policy" at 14 months old, Atkocaitis was regularly locked into that 8-foot by 8-foot room "for weeks at a time" by parents Thomas and Denise, according to the lawsuit. 

Basement Olivia Atkocaitis was forced to live in

Olivia Atkocaitis escaped from this basement in her parents' New Hampshire home, photographed by police in 2018. She was regularly locked inside "for weeks," according to a lawsuit filed in April. (Rath, Young & Pignatelli)

There, she slept on a vinyl twin mattress without sheets, heat, ventilation or running water. The window was allegedly covered with chicken wire, and she was forced to relieve herself in a bucket, according to court documents.

By the time she was 3 years old, Atkocaitis alleges, she was "physically and mentally abused" by her adoptive parents, who she said withheld food and health care and didn't allow her to attend school with their three biological children.

The child was tied up with a dog leash and was repeatedly threatened with deportation if she did not behave, per the suit. At one point, she alleges, she was made to stand in a bathtub while her adoptive parents poured hot sauce down her throat and subsequently forced her to eat her own vomit.

"I truly believed I was a horrible person, and I caused everyone in my life pain. And that my adoption was a mistake. And that my birth was a mistake. And that everyone would be happier and better off without me," Atkocaitis told WMUR-TV in an interview earlier this year.

Olivia Atkocaitis

Olivia Atkocaitis, now 20, is studying psychology at Plymouth State University. She is seeking damages from her adoptive parents and New Hampshire agencies for 14 years of alleged torture and abuse in her parents' home. (Rath, Young & Pignatelli )

One of Atkocaitis' siblings reported the abuse to the New Boston Police Department and his school in 2011.

"According to at least one Atkocaitis sibling, Denise Atkocaitis viewed Olivia as garbage, hated her, acted hatefully toward her, and conditioned other children in the household to hate Olivia," the complaint states.

"That sibling reported that Denise would become so enraged at the household children that she would urinate when yelling at them and began foaming at the mouth. That sibling reported that Denise's behavior was significantly more violent, degrading and hateful."

The department photographed the room and was told by Thomas and Denise that Atkocaitis was regularly locked inside, the suit says. Even though the state Division of Children, Youth and Families was notified, the girl was never removed from the home, according to the suit. 

In addition to adoptive parents Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis, Atkocaitis also named the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services; the state's Division for Children, Youth and Families; the New Boston Central School District; the New Boston Police Department; and the town for "contribut[ing] to the perpetuation of Olivia's slavery" for 14 years.

Olivia Atkocaitis in 14 months old

Olivia Atkocaitis pictured around 14 months old in her Chinese passport photo before her adoption in 2004. (Rath, Young & Pignatelli )

Earlier this month, the parents' pleas for the case to be dismissed were denied by a Merrimack County Superior Court judge. The couple, who have since moved to Georgia, argued they were not properly served, that the court lacked jurisdiction over them and that the statute of limitations had passed. 

Attempts by state entities and the New Boston Police Department to dismiss charges against individual police officers and social workers are still pending, according to court documents. .

"The facts of her case prove that, more than 150 years after its formal abolition, slavery still exists in modern times, in acute forms, in New Hampshire," attorney Michael S. Lewis wrote in the complaint obtained by Fox News Digital.

Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis

Thomas Atkocaitis, left, was arrested Oct. 19, 2018, and spent six months behind bars on a single misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child. Denise Atkocaitis served no jail time after pleading guilty to one felony restraint charge. (New Boston Police Department)

Lewis told Fox News Digital Atkocaitis was "treated like she was less than human." 

"In this case, if you look at the slavery count, you’ll see that you have a person from another country from a minority race being bought by people in the United States in a market for the buying and selling of children," he said Thursday. "[She] is then essentially imprisoned in a basement forced to engage in manual labor."

This included "being forced to be on call to massage on her mother, every hour of the day … whenever her parents asked on pain of psychological punishment if she did not perform the services to her parents' standards."

She was also "required to perform heavy, manual labor" on the family's farm, "attend[ing] to large animals, and was forced as punishment to muck animal manure from barn stalls in her bare feet."

Before her escape in 2018, Atkocaitis claims, she tried to flee the New Boston property "numerous times" but was repeatedly returned to her parents by police. In one instance, per the suit, 12-year-old Atkocaitis jumped out a second-story window in the family home before she was reported missing, captured and returned after two hours.

When she dug her way to freedom Sept. 5, 2018, the New Boston Police Department used dogs to track her through nearby woods, per the suit. A citizen reportedly found the girl with "scratches on her face, covered in dirt, wearing sandals and her feet covered in dirt and debris from the wood."

After a subsequent investigation, during which a social worker and police said they felt suffocated after spending more than five minutes in the tiny basement room, Thomas and Denise were arrested.

Thomas Atkocaitis was charged with felony criminal restraint, kidnapping and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child by the New Boston Police Department. He spent six months in jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported. 

The couple could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Denise Atkocaitis spent no time in jail after she pleaded guilty to criminal restraint charges. Charges of child endangerment and accessory to criminal restraint were reportedly dropped.

Atkocaitis was then admitted into the foster system until she turned 18, where she "suffered [from] the assignment and placement decisions" of DCYF, "[which created] instability for her, causing her more trauma," according to the testimony of former New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services employee Michelle Herbet, which was reviewed by Fox News Digital.

Atkocaitis is now studying psychology at Plymouth State University, Lewis said.

"Our goal is emancipation," he said. "We believe that this can be accomplished through a civil action that results in a judgment, freeing [Atkociatis] from having to rely on anyone who put her in the environment we've described in our case."

Christina Coulter is a U.S. and World reporter for Fox News Digital. Email story tips to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Authored by Christina Coulter via FoxNews December 7th 2023

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