Testimony points to abuse in VanAlstyne home

— Photo from Facebook.com

Brothers and sisters, Cheyanne, Christine, and Kenneth White sit around their cousin, Tiffany VanAlstyne in a picture posted on the Facebook profile of Brenda VanAlstyne who had legal custody of the three children until Kenneth was found strangled to death in December. She is now facing abuse and neglect charges in Albany County Family Court.


ALBANY — The foster mother of Kenneth White’s surviving sisters testified in family court that one of them reported the other was beaten with a bat by their cousin, Tiffany VanAlstyne, who was arrested in December for killing the five-year-old Kenneth.

The reports of abuse, echoed in testimony by the family’s case worker, were focused on VanAlstyne, the 20-year-old cousin of the girls. She faces a criminal trial for second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter after Kenneth’s body was found in the snow near their home in Knox. Her mother, Brenda VanAlstyne, faces abuse and neglect allegations brought by the Albany County Department of Children, Youth and Families.

Jeffrey Berkun, VanAlstyne’s attorney, said in his closing statement that the county relied on speculation and gave no proof that Tiffany VanAlstyne’s mental condition predisposed her to violence while raising it as an issue.

“They don’t ever say what the mental health issues were,” Berkun told the judge.

Albany County Family Court Judge Gerard Maney said he will reserve his decision until April 10.

“Christine had bruises from her cheek pretty much covering her entire body, right down to the bottom of her legs,” the foster mother, Linda Dunn, said during her questioning on March 26. Christine and Cheyanne came to Dunn’s home on Dec. 19, she said, and have lived there since.

If they need to be disciplined, Dunn told the county’s attorney, James Green, she takes away time on iPads they were given for Christmas, or they are put in time out. She said they are “speech impaired,” and they sometimes get frustrated when they have a hard time connecting with other children.

“She throws temper tantrums, she throws objects, she curses,” Dunn said of Christine, who is Kenneth’s twin.

Before Dunn took the stand, all four other lawyers joined in Green’s request that the media be prohibited from the courtroom. Her identity should be protected, Green argued, to prevent the children from “emotional harm.” Maney denied the request.

Brenda VanAlstyne did not testify, but Berkun said in his closing statement that Green had used speculation and criticized a lack of evidence.

He used testimony from Brandon Rios, an 18-year-old in VanAlstyne’s care, to contradict the report from an investigator with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, who said Tiffany VanAlstyne had beat him within months of her December arrest. Rios testified it was in 2008 and he said he slept in Brenda VanAlstyne’s bedroom with Cheyanne while Christine and Kenneth slept on the other side of their trailer in Tiffany’s room.

A few women watched the trial from the gallery. In VanAlstyne’s previous family court appearances, they stood on the curb outside in downtown Albany holding signs that called for justice for Kenneth and called themselves members of “Kenneth’s Army.”

Michelle Fusco, the group’s leader, told The Enterprise she was heartened to know that Christine and Cheyanne have not been shuffled around to different homes and she hopes the parental rights for Brenda VanAlstyne and the girls’ parents, Jayson and Christine White, are terminated.

The Whites are now able to visit the girls under supervision, but Brenda VanAlstyne is temporarily prohibited from visiting.

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