Terrible Two

Renee Polreis and her adopted son had a miserable life together--until someone put an end to it.

Clauss told police that she spoke with Renee by phone while the Polreises were still in Russia and remembered her complaining that the boy had vomited in the car on the ride back to Moscow. Soon after the family's arrival back in the United States, police reports say, Renee told Wilkinson that she had been shocked by the toddler's incessant screaming after he was taken from the orphanage. And Renee allegedly confided to Julie Haralson that she was "already insane" by the time she returned to the United States and that David was driving her crazy with his unruly behavior. (Haralson now tells Westword that the police account of that conversation is "probably not true.")

In Edick's first few conversations with Renee after her return to the United States, Renee told her that things seemed to be working out. David was having some trouble adjusting to a sleeping schedule because of the time difference, Renee said, but things were fine otherwise.

The couple threw a block party for the neighborhood as a way of welcoming David into the fold. Renee took time off from work so that she could be with the boy and help him settle in, Bright says.

By October, however, Renee's attitude had undergone a significant change. Renee, Edick told police, said that she was experiencing difficulties with David and that this adoption "did not feel the same" as Isaac's placement. Renee was concerned by the emergence of sibling rivalry between the two boys, and she was disturbed that she'd had to put them in separate bedrooms because David would spit on his brother during the night, keeping him awake.

While the women visited in the kitchen, Edick told police, Renee asked if the staff at Russian orphanages spank their charges with wooden spoons. The reason she wondered, Renee said, was because one time when she'd pulled a spoon from a drawer, David put his hands and face against the wall and began sobbing as if in fear. Edick told police that she had Clauss check to see if that form of punishment was the practice in Russia; Clauss assured her that it was not.

By November, the situation in the Polreis household had deteriorated even further. Edick said Renee told her that David was manipulative and that, although he had control of his bladder and bowels, he refused to use the toilet when she was around. Renee reportedly believed that it was David's way of controlling her.

According to police reports, Renee also told Edick that the boy's behavior had led her to contact Greeley psychologist Byron Norton and that during a play therapy session, David selected a rubber knife from a group of toys and then pretended to stab his mother with it. Renee said Norton advised her not to take the attack personally. David, he explained, suffered an attachment disorder, and when those children are angry, they act out--particularly toward their mothers.

Edick also told police that Renee was extremely upset over the knife incident, as well as by her husband's apparent lack of concern when she related the incident to him. She related to investigators a later conversation during which Renee described Dave Polreis's reaction. "I hated my own mother," Dave Polreis reportedly told his wife, "and I turned out okay." According to Edick, Renee said Norton responded by telling her that Dave Polreis must have an attachment disorder, too.

Moreover, Edick told police, Renee had said that Norton's prognosis for two-year-old David was bleak. Norton reportedly told Renee that his own son had an attachment disorder. And Norton knew, Renee told Edick, that kids like David grow up to be criminals.

Byron Norton did not return phone calls from Westword. But Edick was concerned enough about her conversation with Renee that she arranged for her friend to meet with another mother whose adoptive child had been diagnosed with an attachment disorder. The meeting, held at Fat Albert's restaurant in Greeley, was an eye-opener for Edick and for Cindy Wilkinson, who also attended.

Edick told police that Renee said she wanted to relinquish custody of David but that if she did so, it would ruin her marriage. Renee reportedly added that her husband didn't share her belief that the boy had serious problems and that she felt he was being unsupportive.

Edick also told police that Renee claimed she'd heard that 90 percent of parents with attachment disordered kids end up abusing their children. Edick said she tried to assure Renee that this was not the case. Her own daughter, whom she'd adopted from Korea, had attachment issues, Edick told Renee. She explained to Renee how she dealt with her anger and with her daughter's anger.

Renee's response, according to Edick, was that she didn't want to raise a child like Edick's.

Renee's problems with David were surprising to many of the people who knew the family and who'd watched Renee interact with the boy.

David appeared to be normal and friendly, neighbor Trejo told police. He seemed happiest, she said, when Renee would pull him around the block as he sat in his red wagon. Neighbor Jack Stoller told the Greeley Tribune that David was "cuter than a bug" and "just a little ball of joy."

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