Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit alleging parents abused adoptive daughter with hot sauce


A New Hampshire judge denied a motion from a couple seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by their adoptive daughter alleging years of torture and abuse — including once pouring hot sauce down her throat and forcing her to eat her vomit.

Olivia Atkocaitis is suing her adoptive parents, Denise Atkocaitis and Thomas Atkocaitis. They had sought to dismiss the case, arguing they were not properly served, that the court lacks jurisdiction over them, and the applicable statute of limitations bars Olivia Atkocaitis’ complaint. The court disagreed.

Law&Crime first reported on the lawsuit in February, in which Olivia Atkocaitis says that her adoptive parents, Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis, denied her an education and health care and threatened her with deportation if she did not behave. The lawsuit also alleges “an enormous and massive failure” by police and the state’s child protective services agency to protect her. The New Boston Police Department arrested the parents on Oct. 18, 2018. Ultimately both agreed to plea deals which resulted in no jail time for Denise Atkocaitis and a six-month jail term for Thomas Atkocaitis.

“The state failed me,” Olivia Atkocaitis told the Boston Globe. “I was always in pain. I was always nervous. I was always anxious. I was in a constant state of panic.”

Brian Cullen, who represents New Boston and the six officers named in the suit, said in a statement to Law&Crime, that the outcome is far from surprising as the motions were based on issues of service and timeliness of the complaint.

“You might note that each of the New Boston officers has filed motions to dismiss on a far more basic argument – that the complaint simply does not make out a colorable claim against them,” he said. “Indeed, many of the claims seem more designed to grab headlines than out of any realistic expectation of recovery.”

Olivia Atkocaitis, right inset, alleges her adoptive parents, Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis, left insets, kept her locked in a basement

Olivia Atkocaitis, right inset, alleges her adoptive parents, Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis, left insets, kept her locked in a basement “dungeon,” left, in New Hampshire during her childhood before she escaped in 2018, a lawsuit said. (Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis photos from New Boston Police Department via The Associated Press; basement photo from the complaint filed in New Hampshire on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023; Atkocaitis screenshot from Manchester, New Hampshire, ABC affiliate WMUR-TV/YouTube)

Michael Courtney, who serves as counsel for the town of New Boston, denied the allegations, according to New Hampshire Public Radio. He told the station that the investigation “led to the removal of the plaintiff from the home and conditions her adopted parents subjected her to.”

“It was also the New Boston Police Department who filed felony level charges and arrested both Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis for offenses committed against the Plaintiff,” Courtney wrote, according to NHPR.

New Boston, New Hampshire, is about 65 miles north of Boston.

Olivia Atkocaitis’ complaint chronicles the alleged abuse and how she repeatedly tried to escape from the home over the years, but local police allegedly hunted her down, reprimanded her for escaping, and returned her to servitude.

“Her parents imprisoned her in a dungeon basement room,” court documents state. “They forced her to act as their personal servant. They subjected her to punitive manual labor. They isolated her. They withheld a public education from her. They starved her and beat her. They hurled the most vile, racial epithets at her. They withheld necessary health care from her. They failed to confirm her status as a U.S. citizen and threatened her with terror, including extradition.”

“Olivia’s story should shock the conscience of any person who claims to have one,” the complaint also said. “She seeks justice through this lawsuit.”

Court records document Olivia Atkocaitis’ life from the time she was brought to the U.S. from China as an infant and “delivered by the state and an international adoption agency to criminals and child abusers in her first months of life.”

“She was only able to bring this civil action because she dug her way through the walls of a basement prison, and then ran for her life, to freedom, after suffering years of imprisonment and forced servitude within a home the defendants placed her in, and to which the defendants returned her, repeatedly,” the lawsuit states.

Olivia Atkocaitis was living in an orphanage in the Hunan Province of China when she was adopted and does not know her biological parents or biological family members, court documents state. She was adopted during China’s “one-child” policy, which prohibited families from having more than one child as part of a nationwide population control mandate.

The basement room where she was kept had no heat, no ventilation, and no running water, according to the lawsuit. The only window was covered with chicken wire.

The couple allegedly subjected her to mental abuse, including being told she had been left in a trash can by her birth mother, who did not love her.

She was forced to perform massages on her adoptive mother every day. Sometimes, she was force-fed, while other times, her adoptive parents did not feed her as punishment, the lawsuit alleges. She claims she was isolated from other children and neighbors.

Olivia Atkocaitis says that at one point, she was forced to stand in a bathtub while her parents poured hot sauce down her throat and then forced to eat her vomit.

“According to at least one Atkocaitis sibling, Denise Atkocaitis viewed Olivia as garbage, hated her, acted hatefully toward her, and conditioned other children in the household to hate Olivia,” the complaint said. “That sibling reported that Denise would become so enraged at the household children that she would urinate when yelling at them and begin foaming at the mouth. That sibling reported that Denise’s behavior toward Olivia was significantly more violent, degrading, demeaning and hateful.”

Read the lawsuit here:


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