Adoptive Ankeny Parents Charged with Child Abuse After Video Surfaces

ANKENY, Iowa  --  A video from inside an Ankeny home has led to child abuse charges for the residents.

The couple, John and Joyce Bell, have adopted nine children, and police say they know the home well. Officers have responded to the address more than 50 times since 2008.

The video from inside the home at 113 NW Scott Street shows a chaotic scene; screaming is heard and images of a child being hit are shown.

Krystal Bell, one of the children John and Joyce adopted, shot the video.  She says all of the children had varying mental disabilities.  At the time of the Bells' arrest on Thursday, only the two youngest boys, ages 16 and 17, lived in the home; they are now in protective care.

“I actually feel happy. I feel relieved a little bit, but then at the same time I feel like we haven't had enough justice yet. They should have a lot more coming to them than what they have right now,” said Krystal.

Police records show the dynamic in the home was violent.  One call for service shows one of the children was “threatening to kill everyone and was hitting a sibling and the father,” another says one of the children was “attacking the mother with a large piece of glass,” and another says the parents were “smacking the brothers around and threatening to put them in the hospital."

According to Krystal Bell, the living space was also an issue. She said at one point all nine adopted children--in addition to a biological child--lived in the three-bedroom home at the same time.

“The other two bedrooms were where all the kids slept, or in the living room on the floor, or in the back room on the floor. Sometimes we slept down in the basement," she said.

John and Joyce Bell were unable to be reached for comment because they are still lodged in the Polk County Jail.

The Department of Human Services says there is not a hard and fast limit on how many children a family can adopt, but they say they do studies to make sure a family can financially support the number of children and have enough space for them.  DHS would not comment on this specific case.