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Girl, Interrupted 

Alanna Krause believes that much of her hellish childhood could have been avoided. Now she's suing her father, her therapist, and her lawyer in an effort to prove it. How did it come to this?

Wednesday, Dec 18 2002

Page 5 of 7

Dr. Jared Balmer, executive director at Island View, says that many children who enter his facility have similar reactions. "A majority of the children here think that they have no problems," he says. "But they think that everyone else has lots of problems."

Alanna stayed at Island View for five months, with her father visiting every few weekends. When he came, they'd either undergo joint therapy or he'd take her on excursions into town. Simone-Smith, however, was not allowed to visit her daughter; Alanna could only make 10-minute calls to her mother after she'd earned phone privileges -- six weeks into her stay. To maintain contact, they sent each other letters, which were screened by the Island View staff.

When Alanna was discharged, Krause sent her to boarding school at Harker Academy in San Jose. Alanna says she enjoyed her time there, though on weekends she had to catch a train and a bus to Richmond, where her father picked her up for a couple of days' stay in San Geronimo.

After graduating from Harker at age 13, Alanna returned to live with her father, though she had already decided she wasn't going to stay. "Every time I told him I wanted to live with my mom, he'd say, 'Maybe when you're older,'" Alanna says. "But I realized that if it didn't happen now, it was never going to happen. It started to feel like maybe it would be a possibility that I could live on my own and survive."

Less than a week into her freshman year at the local San Geronimo high school, her father gave her a ride to school. Alanna never made it into the building. Instead, she walked to the bus station and bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, carrying nothing but a backpack that held a change of clothes and a toothbrush.

Alanna spent the next two months on the run in L.A., staying at first with a distant relative of her mother, who'd written to Alanna when she was at boarding school. "There was a lot of hiding out. I'd stay a couple nights here, couple nights there," Alanna says. "The people I was staying with would know someone I could stay with. And they knew someone. It was a very scary time, running and hiding, like a criminal on the run."

Alanna eventually found herself at the home of Kathy Schneiderman, another distant maternal relative. She stayed there for a few weeks, hiding in the house most of the time because she was too afraid to register at a school. While she was there, though, Alanna created discord within the family.

"She was really smart, really bright, but she was very disruptive to my family," says Schneiderman. "She was so used to not living in what I consider to be a normal family, and Alanna would tell my children, 'You don't have to listen to [your parents], they just want to be in charge of you.' After three weeks, my husband and I were fighting and my kids were not listening to me."

Once Alanna had overstayed her welcome at the Schneidermans, she went to live with Lynne Geminder, yet another distant relative on her maternal side, and her family. Geminder says that the girl could be manipulative; it seems Alanna disrupted the Geminders' life, too.

"It's fair to say that it was not at no price that we kept her in our home," says Lynne Geminder. "She wreaked havoc in my house."

Though Geminder is wary of Alanna, she also sympathizes with her. "My recollection was that there were problems between the parents and neither one was a saint," she says. "Between the two of them, there was wildness, nothing a kid should have to endure or cope with."

Meanwhile, Krause had hired a private detective to stake out Simone-Smith's Ojai home because he was convinced that Simone-Smith had either kidnapped Alanna or encouraged her to run away. The detective never found evidence of kidnapping, though Krause is still certain that Simone-Smith planted the idea in Alanna's head, a charge she denies.

"I did not tell Alanna to run," Simone-Smith says. "What I told her was to find your own strength."

Through a series of soap opera-like coincidences involving a teacher, Alanna's stepbrother, and his mother, Krause discovered that Alanna was staying with the Geminders, who convinced Alanna to turn herself in by calling the Department of Children and Family Services.

Several months of interviews with social workers and therapists and attorneys ensued while Alanna continued to live with the Geminders. Krause pressed to have the case remanded to Marin County and asked that the court look at Marin County evaluator Oklan's recommendations. Instead, the L.A. Juvenile Courts took the case, because, as Commissioner Stanley Genser, who oversaw the proceedings, says, he "wanted the truth."

Genser ordered an independent psychological evaluation by Dr. Daniel Kramon. The file is confidential, but Genser says that after he read Kramon's report, he formed several opinions: "I didn't find the allegation that the mother alienated the child credible," he says. "It didn't fit the usual picture of parental alienation. [Alanna] didn't spend enough time with her mother. And there's child abuse and there's child abuse. It was he said, she said.

"Alanna was getting older, and she wanted to live with her mother, and I couldn't find anything saying that [the] mother was really a risk."

About The Author

Bernice Yeung


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