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Jury sides with foster parents accused of assaulting teen 

Alan Scher Zagier//May 11, 2022

Jury sides with foster parents accused of assaulting teen 

Alan Scher Zagier//May 11, 2022

A southwest Missouri jury sided with two former foster parents accused of sexual assault and negligent supervision by a St. Clair County woman while she was in their care 14 years ago.

The 28-year-old woman, identified in the suit only by her initials, sued Robert and Debra Kastning of Seymour in 2019, alleging abuse on the husband’s part during her 16-month stay with the couple beginning as a 13-year-old seventh grader in 2008-09.

A Webster County jury rendered a verdict in favor of the defendants after a six-day trial. The plaintiff had sought $6 million in damages, said St. Louis defense attorney Irene Marusic, consisting of $3 million in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

Marusic said her client, Robert Kastning, asserted his rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify when called to the stand by the plaintiff’s attorney — but the jury nonetheless sided with him and his wife.

At trial, Marusic highlighted efforts by the plaintiff (who was joined by her sister in the foster home) to return to the Kastning’s home after the sisters were placed in a different foster home in May 2009 for reasons unrelated to the abuse allegations.

“The plaintiff called numerous persons trying to get back into their home and had packed her bags multiple times trying to return,” Marusic said.  “(She) had even authored a number of letters to Bob and his family members indicating that she wanted to remain living with them and expressing how happy she had been living at their home.”

The girl also shared those sentiments at the time with her foster care caseworker and her new foster mother, the defense attorney added, hoping to be adopted by the Kastnings. 

But “not long before making her allegations against Bob, the plaintiff was told by her caseworker that the Kastnings were not fighting to get her back into their home,” Marusic added.  “The plaintiff felt the Kastnings had been dishonest with her and was very upset with them.”

Springfield plaintiff’s attorney Randy Reichard said he and co-counsel Aimee Morrison, who assisted lead attorney Alex Davis, “were proud to represent our client in this case who was finally able to have her voice heard after 13 years. She was only 14 years old when these claims arose, and as is typical in these cases, she was victim-shamed and attacked for delays in reporting and minor inconsistencies.”

“Her primary goal was to prevent what happened to her from happening to anyone else. Criminal charges against Mr. Kastning involving similar claims from another victim are still pending. If he had been convicted on those charges prior to our trial, it likely would have impacted the outcome in our case. Unfortunately, the trial in his criminal case was postponed in December due to COVID-19 and was rescheduled to May 2022.”

The latter case involved a minor relative and was alleged to have occurred in 2017-18, Reichard said. A previous trial on those charges ended in a hung jury, Marusic said.

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Defense verdict

Personal injury

Venue: Webster County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 19WE-CC00043/Feb. 23, 2022

Judge: Michael Hendrickson

Plaintiff’s Experts: Lauren Richerson, Hutchison & Associates Psychology, Kansas City (psychological); Kelli Dillon, Kimberling City (psychological); Kimberly Lowery-Grimm, Springfield (psychological)

Caption: K.I.L. v. Robert J. Kastning, aka Bobbie J. Kastning, and Debra J. Kastning, aka Debbie J. Kastning

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Alex W. Davis, Law Office of Alex W. Davis, Springfield; Randy Reichard and Aimee Morrison, Lowther Johnson, Springfield

Defendant’s attorneys:  Irene Marusic, HeplerBroom, St. Louis (for Robert Kastning); Kaci Rae Peterson, Schreimann, Rackers, & Francka, Jefferson City (for Debra Kastning)


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