Battle Ground mother speaks out: ‘the system failed’


The news that Vancouver couple Jeff and Sandra Weller were arrested on Oct. 12 for allegedly beating, starving and imprisoning their two adopted twin teenagers shocked Clark County.

However, the "horrifying" news "didn’t surprise" Battle Ground resident Tina Toth, mother of two of the other four children residing with the Wellers at the time of the arrest.

"I can’t say this wasn’t predictable … deep down, I knew at some point there would be a major incident," she said.

Toth believes the Wellers abused all the children in their care, including her children.

"I think the severity of what (the Wellers) have done to the twins is horrific, but I doubt the other four were spared," she said.

Authorities have removed all six children from the Weller’s residence. Currently, Toth’s two children are living with her while the remaining four children, including the twins, are in foster care. As much as Toth is "relieved" Child Protective Services and law enforcement agencies are involved now, she questions why it took so long for authorities to take action.

"For years, I did everything I could legally do to protect my children (from Jeffery Weller) and the system kept telling me there was nothing it could … the system failed me and my children" she said.

Toth first developed concerns about Jeff Weller’s alleged abusive nature almost 15 years ago. According to Toth, she first met Jeff Weller at a "church camp" in 1995. Soon after, they starting dating and were married in 1996. At the time, she thought Weller was a "nice" and "decent person."

That opinion quickly changed. Weller became abusive shortly after their first child was born in 1997, according to Toth.

"He starting being physically abusive to me and once held our son’s head under water," Toth said.

For Toth, the violence was unacceptable.

"I walked out in 2001 and took the children with me," she said.

Toth and Weller divorced in 2002. Toth was awarded custody of their children and Weller was permitted visitations, per court records.

Over the years, Toth grew concerned over what she described as a "slowly increasing" level of abuse.

"He first started insulting me in front of the kids and the kids starting saying he was hitting them," Toth said.

She also had concerns about Weller’s ability to provide parental care for her children.

"(Several years ago), my youngest child got sick while visiting (Weller) and messed his clothes with puke and diarrhea," said Toth.

However, rather than change the child’s clothes, Toth alleges, Weller forced the child to remain in the soiled clothing until the end of the visitation.

According to court documents, Toth voiced her concerns numerous times to police and Child Protective Services, but no actions were ever taken.

"Every time I reported things to Child Protective Services, it fell on deaf ears," she said.

According to a Child Protective Services staff member, eight previous accusations involving the Wellers "were taken seriously and properly investigated." However, the investigations repeatedly concluded there was "insufficient" evidence to take action.

The alleged abuse was finally made public when one of the children in the home slipped authorities a note in early October, triggering law enforcement action.

Now, that her two children are back with her, Toth says she is trying to help them develop a "normal" childhood.

"Right now, I am just trying to let them be kids," she said.

Citing a desire "not to interfere with the criminal case," Toth declined to comment on the specific criminal allegations against Jeff and Sandra Weller.

Court failure

It wasn’t just Child Protective Services that failed to take proper action, according to Toth.

After years of "frustration" with "inaction" by Children Protective Services, Micheal Toth, Tina Toth’s current husband, suggested Toth request a family law guardian ad litem be appointed to her children.

"CPS wasn’t doing anything and I hoped to get an independent evaluation through the court," Mike Toth said.

In Washington, a family law guardian ad litem represents the best interest of a minor child in custody matters, often through a formal recommendation based on the guardian ad litem’s independent investigation.

Toth followed her current husband’s recommendation and Vancouver attorney Meredith Graff was appointed as a guardian ad litem in Dec. 2010, per court records.

Toth said she wanted the guardian ad litem to restrict Weller to supervised visitations and order Weller into "counseling to address his anger problems."

But things took a surprising turn.

Graff’s report, filed with the court in May, concluded that Toth – and not Weller – posed a safety risk to the children.

"The children in this matter … are at extreme risk of harm if they remain any longer in the mother’s home … they should be removed immediately," the report states.

In contrast, Graff stated she had "no reservations" about having the children reside with Weller.

Graff’s recommendations were given despite a 2007 psychological evaluation listing what one local psychologist stated should have been a "warning flag for serious abuse."

Per that evaluation, as quoted by Graff, Weller has "issues with chronic and intense anger;" and is "over-controlled with brief, impulsive episodes of acting out" coupled with "a subtle paranoia" that can make Weller "hostile when criticized."

The same doctor also evaluated Sandra Weller and concluded she is "aggressive" and "defines her view as the correct one and assumes that to disagree with her is simply a demonstration of one’s lack of understanding," per Graff’s report.

Rather than be concerned by the psychological evaluations of the Weller’s, Graff stated Toth’s children would benefit from exposure to both Jeff and Sandra Weller.

"Even though the father’s wife may appear to some that she is ‘controlling,’ she is actually what the boys need right now," Graff wrote.

The court followed Graff’s recommendations and ordered Toth’s children to be transferred to the Weller household, setting the stage for Toth’s children to be in the home during the recent arrest.

Jeff and Sandra Weller did not return requests for comment.