Adopted children testify against woman they say abused them for years

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The victims in an abuse case years in the making spoke out in Anchorage court on Tuesday. The victims, previously adopted children of the woman who stands accused, say that their adoptive mother, Anya James, abused them for years in emotionally-charged testimony ahead of James' sentencing.

Anya James, in court ahead of her sentencing for endangering the welfare of her adopted children. Photo by KTUU photojournalist Shawn Wilson.

Previously, James has already pleaded guilty to several counts of child endangerment. However, some of her children expressed Tuesday that they believe she is playing the court system in order to receive a less severe sentence.

Victims to James described abuse in many forms, such as being starved for days on end or being left in freezing basements or outside during the winter. Often times, victims said, they were forced to use a bucket as a toilet in front of one another as punishment.

"There was one night where I had ran away. I believe it was winter time, if I'm not mistaken. And I was cold. I was forced to sit outside on the back porch with no socks, very thin rubber boots. I had a jacket on. And I was crying I was cold. I was so cold I couldn't feel my own fingers, and I ran," said adopted son Solomon "Tommy" James.

Tommy said he went into James' house when he was 8 years old, and by the time he was found by police at age 18, he reportedly weighed just 90 pounds. "I was the lab rat," Tommy said. "All of the so-called punishments that happened, happened to me first."

Tommy described punishment for not "writing pages." He said he was starved and forced to sleep on a concrete floor, almost naked, curled up in a ball, sometimes on top of a 1 foot radiator, just to stay warm. Tommy says his back and ankles are permanently malformed from all the time "spent curling up just to be able to get heat."

While James has been on ankle monitoring for years ahead of the trial, Alice Tijerina, another victim adopted as a child, says that the ankle monitoring didn't prevent James from coming into contact with her previously adopted children.

"It didn't stop her from bumping into me twice at Natural Pantry. [...] Her being on ankle monitor didn't stop her from coming to Tommy's place of work while he was on the clock. I believe she still thinks she has power over us, and you don't, and you never will again," Tijerina said.

Tijerina described a regimen where the children were only allowed one piece of fruit for breakfast, and if they asked for the fruit before noon, even at 11 a.m., James would consider that "begging" and the child would go hungry. She said James used medication to subdue and control them, and often punishments would last for days.

"No one ever believed us, because no one believes the foster kids. What she did was wrong, and she should have never taken us in. The system failed us, the State of Alaska failed us, and then the courts failed us. How the State of Alaska allowed a single woman to adopt seven children is beyond me," said Tijerina.

Ahava James, another adopted child, described permanent mental damage and emotional distress caused by the total lack of social interaction while she was raised. "Those years I will never get back. My childhood was taken from me," Ahava said.

James was originally charged with 16 separate counts. These counts included assault and kidnapping. The sentencing hearing is scheduled to continue on Thursday, Nov. 2 for the two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree. Each is a class C felony and includes a maximum sentence of up to five years.

This story will be updated after the presiding judge delivers sentencing for the crimes.