What Remains


It barely made headlines, what with all the political corruption underway between the Executive and Legislative branches. But it did warrant at least space in some newspapers as we closed out 2020 and welcomed 2021:


The remains of a girl between ages 6½ and 10 have been discovered along the H.B. Van Duzer Forest State Scenic Corridor in rural Lincoln County, Oregon State Police announced Tuesday. Detectives are seeking the public’s help identifying the child. Her remains were found in the area of the scenic rest stop along the heavily wooded corridor, which winds through Oregon 18 from northwestern Polk County to Lincoln City.


It was likely a press release faxed or emailed out by the Oregon State Police. They closed out with this tidbit:

According to a spokesperson with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, instances of unidentified remains of children under age 11 typically don’t have associated missing persons reports. “When we are talking about children under the age of 11, we find the biggest hurdle to get over is they are not reported missing the majority of the time.”

The reason it usually goes unreported is because one or more parent is involved.

When I wrote the book, Karly Sheehan, I included the statistics then about abuse in the State of Oregon, noting that the bulk of child abuse is perpetuated by the parents, and most often by the mother. In 2019, twenty-three children died from child abuse in Oregon. There could be more, but these are the ones acknowledged by the state in their own Child Welfare Date 2019 report. Of those killed, 12 were ages 1 and under. Half of the victims were babies. Moms acting alone were responsible for 8 deaths. Dads acting alone were responsible for 6 deaths. Moms and Dads who both abused the child were responsible for 4 deaths. Other relatives were responsible for 2 deaths and mother’s significant other was responsible for 3 deaths.

I noted that the bulk of child abuse involves children ages 5 and under. This is because those children often lack the verbal skills to speak out about the abuse. In 2019, Oregon received 89,451 referrals regarding child abuse. Of those calls, 46,587 were turned over to the state agency for assessment and 13,674 children were identified as being victims of abuse.  Forty-two percent of those children were ages 5 and under. Nearly 6,000 children in Oregon ages 5 and under were abused enough to require state intervention.

Mandated reporters made up the bulk of child abuse referrals – teachers, law enforcement, medical personnel and the like. Parents were the least likely to report abuse.

Nearly 80 percent of the children being abused remained in the very homes where the abuse took place.

In 67 percent of the cases where it was determined the children had been abused, the state agency tasked with protecting children determined it wasn’t necessary to “open a case to keep the child safe.” This is in cases where Child Welfare has already determined the child has been abused.

Karly Sheehan was 3 years old when she was murdered in 2005. The Child Welfare department received numerous reports of abuse regarding Karly. Her mom’s boyfriend tortured her for 10 months before he finally killed her. In every investigation – there were several – Child Welfare decided they couldn’t determine if Karly was actually being abused. Her case was never founded for abuse. Even though as the photos of Karly’s abuse reveal she had numerous bruises on her and nearly all of her hair had been snatched out by her abuser. How one can look at those photos and determine anything other than the child was being abused is beyond comprehension.


4,057 children ages 3 and under were determined to have suffered abuse in Oregon in 2019. Of those, 1,397 were under a year old. The bulk of them remained in the homes where they were being abused.

White kids make up the highest percentage of children founded for abuse: 7,933 white kids compared to 613 Blacks kids and 398 Native American children.

Between 2018 and 2019, child abuse in the state of Oregon increased by 8.4 percent.

That’s the abuse we know about for sure. That’s nearly a 10 percent increase in one year’s period. We don’t have the figures yet for 2020 when the bulk of children were at home due to a pandemic.

There are different kinds of abuse, including neglect, but Child Welfare noted that sex abuse was up by 17.8 in 2019 and actual physical harm increased by 16.2 percent. In other words, the abuse children are suffering in their own homes, usually by their own parents is increasing at alarming rates.

Factors leading into child abuse include substance abuse, unemployment, and financial strain. And like I said, we don’t have the figures for 2020 yet.


Had she lived, Karly Sheehan would be celebrating her 19th birthday today. I received a text early this morning from someone who said, “I wonder what she would have been like.”


Karly was impetuous. She loved being silly and making others laugh. She thought her daddy hung the moon. She didn’t trust her mom, with good reason. She loved animals and flowers and ladybugs in particular. She told her dad that when she grew up she wanted to be just like him and work in an office. Karly was already kind-hearted like her daddy. She saw the best in people, even in those who least deserved it.  She was a protector of others.  She loved the outdoors.


We will never know what career path she would have chosen, or what good she would have accomplished.


With her mother’s complicit permission, Karly’s killer robbed those who loved her of ever knowing exactly who she’d be at age 19.


Happy Birthday, Karly. You are missed always.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story Behind Karly’s Law.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


Someone who really cares

about 11 months ago

How can you possibly think that when Karly's murderer is dead and her mom has to live everyday without her, that YOU are not the real monster at work here. Posting and profiting and trolling the family of a dead child for YEARS. And now on her birthday. You should be ashamed.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 11 months ago

FYI: Karly's killer, Shawn Field, is dead. He died in prison. Perhaps you should take a closer look at the specifics of the case and Sarah Brill Sheehan's participation and complicity in the 10 months of torture Karly endured while her mother repeatedly lied to protect Shawn before you play a sympathy tune for Sarah. Until we hold mothers criminally responsible for the ways they put their children at risk, and as I've noted here, actually do the bulk of abuse themselves, I suggest you hold off on the every woman is a good mama trope.


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