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4 years on, still no trial for Anchorage adoptive mother accused of abuse

4 years on, still no trial for Anchorage adoptive mother accused of abuse, kidnapping

Michelle Theriault Boots – September 6, 2015

Zemira James pictured here on Friday, August 28, 2015. She was adopted by Anya James, who was later arrested for abuse and kidnapping in 2011.

Zemira James was one of six children rescued from Anya James’ home in 2010 after James, their adoptive mother, was accused of abuse and neglect.  Photo by: Loren Holmes, ADN

“Zemira James was a bone-thin 15-year-old when she was rescued from the home of the woman who had adopted her from Alaska’s foster care system.

That was back in October 2010.

When Anya James was arrested seven months later, in May 2011, the case made headlines. Prosecutors alleged the Anchorage woman forced a bleak, isolated existence on her six adoptive children in a sprawling Hillside home, locking them in bare basement partitions with concrete floors, forcing them to use kitty litter buckets as toilets, feeding them “power meals” of oatmeal gruel, ground-up spaghetti and raw eggs, or withholding food until some of the teenagers and young adults showed signs of starvation.

Anya James was charged with 16 felony counts in which she is accused of assaulting and kidnapping the six children, all while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in state adoption subsidies.

More than four years after she was arrested, the criminal case against Anya James still hasn’t gone to trial. The 55-year-old James is out on bail and on her fourth defense attorney.

Her trial date has been rescheduled 22 times.

Today, Zemira James is a striking, healthy-looking 20-year-old who lives with her boyfriend and has dreams that include working with animals or writing a book about her life. She wears mostly black, a tangle of rubber bracelets and a spiked cuff on her wrist. She says the black is symbolic of grief.

Without a trial, Zemira says, she is tethered to the past. She can’t go into a Fred Meyer or drive past a McDonald’s or dental office in Anchorage without a flood of memories. She wonders if she’ll run into her former adoptive mother at the grocery store. Even her name, changed at the time of her adoption, is a daily reminder of the eight years she spent with Anya James.

After the trial is over, “I’d look at the city probably in a very different way,” she said. “I’d rejoice. I’d walk out of the courtroom crying and smiling at the same time.”

Until then, she said, “I feel like I’m drowning.”

Two civil cases against the Office of Children’s Services — which placed the children in the home and which attorneys say failed to investigate claims of abuse  — are stalled until the criminal case is resolved, attorneys say. The civil cases represent the best chance the victims will receive money or other restitution from the state.

“(Zemira) was 15 years old when she was rescued basically from a cage in a garage of a half-million dollar mansion on the Hillside,” said Mike Kramer, Zemira’s attorney in a civil case against the Office of Children’s Services that names Anya James as a third-party defendant. “She lives every day with nightmares that she’s going to run into Anya James, who has been out on bail for four-and-a-half years.”

Read more at the Alaska Dispatch News: 4 years on, still no trial for Anchorage adoptive mother accused of abuse, kidnapping