Chinese-born woman sues adoptive parents for allegedly locking her in basement and forced slavery

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A woman born in China and adopted by parents in the New Hampshire town of New Boston is now suing them alleging years of abuse, dangerous living conditions and racist treatment.

Olivia Atkocaitis, now 19, alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday that her parents, Denise and Thomas Atkocaitis, prevented her from attending public school and imprisoned her in a room in their basement. It also alleges they forced her to perform intense manual labor, beat her and shouted racial slurs at her, among other abuses, for nearly 14 years.

Atkocaitis said in the suit she attempted to escape multiple times throughout her childhood but was reprimanded and returned to her home’s dangerous conditions by local police each time, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says Atkocaitis escaped for the last time in 2018 by digging through the walls of a “basement prison” and running away to nearby woods.

Upon learning of her escape, the New Boston police used dogs to track her, according to the lawsuit. After a private citizen found Atkocaitis covered in dirt from the woods the next day, the New Boston Police Department investigated and arrested her adoptive parents and initiated criminal prosecutions of them for felony-level offenses in September 2018. After pleading guilty to the charge of criminal restraint, Denise Atkocaitis did not serve jail time, while Thomas Atkocaitis served six months after pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

Neither Denise, Thomas, nor Olivia Atkocaitis responded to NBC News’ request for comment.

In addition to the alleged racism Atkocaitis experienced from her adoptive parents, the lawsuit also alleges racial discrimination by local and state authorities. Even after police were aware of her mistreatment, the lawsuit states Atkocaitis’s caucasian siblings received more protection and attention from state and municipal officials than she did.

“We explicitly allege race discrimination in the complaint, and as a cause of action with regard to provisions of federal law, with race discrimination and education,” Atkocaitis’s attorney Michael Lewis told NBC News.

The lawsuit lists the New Hampshire division for Children, Youth and Families, The New Boston Police Department, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and adoption agency Wide Horizons for Children as defendants who, “separately and together, contributed to the perpetuation of Olivia’s slavery.”

The New Boston Police Department, Wide Horizons adoption agency and the state’s division for Children, Youth and Families did not respond to a request for comment. Jake Leon, Director of Communications at the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, said they were unable to comment on the case.

Atkocaitis was also the only sibling to be withheld from public school by her adoptive parents, according to the lawsuit. The New Hampshire School Administrative Unit 19 is also listed as a defendant in the suit, which states Atkocaitis attended one day of public school, but no one ever checked on her to determine why she never returned.

Brian Balke, Superintendent of New Hampshire School Administrative Unit 19, said he was unable to comment on the case.

New Boston plans to release a response to the lawsuit, said town counsel Michael Courtney in an email.

“The Town denies any claim that it failed to act or protect the Plaintiff and will respond accordingly through the court process,” Courtney wrote.

The state is reviewing the filing ahead of releasing a response, said Michael Garrity, Director of Communications & Legislative Affairs for the State of New Hampshire Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General.

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