The New Jersey parents who gave their children Nazi-inspired names including Adolf Hitler lost custody after a state appeals court ruled that a history of domestic violence puts the children at risk of abuse and neglect.
Court documents show that the oldest child frequently threatens to kill people and the mother once slipped a note to a neighbor saying she was terrified of her husband because he said he would kill her.
Adolf Hitler Campbell, 4, and his two younger sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, 3, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, 2, will remain in the care of the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).
Their parents, Heath Campbell, 37, and Deborah Campbell, 27, both unemployed and disabled, were abused as children and "neither has received adequate treament for their serious psychological conditions," the three-judge panel of the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division.
The family made headlines back in 2009 when a ShopRite supermarket in Greenwich, N.J., refused to inscribe Adolf Hitler Campbell's name on a cake for his third birthday. At the time, police and child protection officials took the children into protective custody, declining to reveal the exact reason but indicating it was not because of the children's names.
Today's ruling reversed a family court order that determined there was insufficient evidence that the parents had abused or neglected the children. The appeals court sent the case back to family court for further monitoring.
The 49-page ruling shed light on the bleak life inside the Campbell home in Holland Township, where windows were nailed shut and "unusual decorative features" included skulls and knives. DYFS first became involved in the case in December 2008 after receiving complaints that the children were being strapped into their booster seats for unusually long periods of time amid ongoing domestic violence.
A neighbor turned over a handwritten note signed by Deborah Campbell, who dropped out of the 10th grade, that accused her husband of trying to kill her and expressed fear for her children's safety. The note, replete with spelling errors, said, "Hes thrend to have me killed or kill me himself hes alread tried it a few times. Im scare to leave b/c I will be killed. Im afread that he might hurt my children if they are keeped in his care... He's already stabed me with a screwdriver in the hand... He teaches my son how to kill someone at the age of 3."
Asked about the letter during court custody proceedings, Deborah Campbell admitted that she wrote it but testified it was all a lie. She described her husband as "a perfect guy."
Heath Campbell, who cannot read, has been married twice before, fathered other children and has an alleged history of domestic violence, according to the ruling. One of his ex-wives has a restraining order against him and has "moved to an Air Force base with family in Florida to be away and safe from him," court papers said.
One of his ex-wives testified that Heath Campbell disciplined their son so severely with a vacuum in his face that everytime she cleans house with the vacuum he screams "bloody murder." She also testified that she "could not bring her son around 'anybody that wasn't white' because the son would say 'terrible things'" that he learned at his father's knee.
When her children were taken into custody, Deborah Campbell "angrily asked whether she was being forced to choose between her children and her husband, and then said, 'Take them,'" the court document said.
While in custody, little Adolf Hitler Campbell has acted out aggressively toward his sisters, his foster mother and state psychologist Dr. Alice Nadelman, the court record showed.
"(He) took a vacuum cleaner to his sister's throat, saying, 'I'm going to kill you.' The boy told the foster mother on more than one occassion that she was a 'b**ch' and that he was going to kill her... Dr. Nadelman was called a 'b**ch' by the 3-year-old boy when she prevented him from leaving the room."
At the time the children were taken into custody in January 2009, DYFS spokeswoman Kate Bernyk said, "I can say we become involved when there is an allegation of abuse or neglect, and remove a child only if there is an imminent risk to the safety of child. We would never remove a child simply based on their name."
Holland Township Police Sgt. John Harris who personally escorted the child-safety workers to the family's Holland Township home last year, said at the time, "I was at the house to keep the peace and protect the workers."
One of the family's neighbors said she had been called by DYFS to testify at a hearing but said she had not witnessed any "sexual or physical abuse."
"He [Heath Campbell] had some kind of hold over those kids and his wife. I don't think it was sexual or physical abuse, but the kids were confined to certain areas in the house," said Lori Dilts, 38, a neighbor and the daughter of the Campbells' landlord.
"It was more than just their names and the cake situation," said Dilts, who was reluctant to share any more details until after the hearing.
"Those children look outwardly healthy, but they didn't have much freedom," she said. "Occasionally, the little boy would come over here and would hate having to go back to his house."
Dilts said Campbell had swords and Nazi paraphernalia hanging on the walls of the family's home. She said the couple was unemployed and received government assistance to pay their rent.