August 24th, 2011
06:33 PM ET

Alaska's 'Hot-sauce Mom' convicted of child abuse

An Alaska mother's segment on "Dr. Phil" has landed her with the possibility of a jail sentence.

Jessica Beagley was found guilty of misdemeanor child abuse Tuesday. In November, she appeared on the talk show to discuss a video she had submitted of her disciplinary method, in which she had her then 6-year-old son hold hot sauce in his mouth and take a cold shower, said Anchorage prosecutor Cynthia Franklin. The video, which Beagley had e-mailed to the show in November 2009, ignited a debate about whether the tactic constituted abuse.

In the episode, which aired on November 17, 2010, host Phil McGraw challenges Beagley, calling the discipline over-the-top, outrageous and abusive. Authorities launched an investigation on the same day the episode, called "Mommy Confessions," aired.

Beagley's sentencing is scheduled for Monday. She could face a up to year in jail and fine of up to $10,000. Franklin said she was unable to provide any more commentary on the case, because Beagley's sentence is still pending.

The segment featured a home movie of Beagley punishing her son for getting in trouble at school and lying about it. In confessional-style explanations, Beagley provided commentary, saying she had tried other methods of discipline, including time outs and spankings, but to no avail.

"He'll turn and look at you like, 'Is that all you've got?'" Beagley said.

Beagley said on the episode that she had first tried putting soap in her son's mouth, but it had no effect.

"I want him to obey and listen and to understand the consequences of his choices," Beagley said.

On the website for "Dr. Phil," McGraw appears in a supplemental video, calling Beagley's case "extreme" and saying that Beagley needs "a wake-up call."

"I hope it makes all of us stop and grade our papers about how we're doing as parents," McGraw said.

According to a Ria Novosti article in January, the month Beagley was charged, Russian authorities in the United States are monitoring the case because Beagley adopted her son and his twin brother from Russia.

Beagley's lawyer, William Ingaldson, said a representative from the Russian consulate in Seattle had since visited the family and was satisfied with the home environment.

The Beagleys, who have six children, adopted the twins from Russia when they were 5, Ingaldson said. The boy who was punished in the video has reactive attachment disorder, a behavioral problem that makes effective discipline difficult, as the child has a "survival" mentality, Ingaldson said. The disorder can occur when a child does not bond with a parent within the early years of life and affects the sense of right and wrong.

Ingaldson said his client mistakenly went on "Dr. Phil" to find a way to effectively get through to her son, knowing her methods were not working.

"The show isn't about getting you help," Ingaldson said. "It's about ratings."

Since Beagley appeared on the show, she and her son have been going to therapy and the boy's behavior is showing improvements, Ingaldson said. The family will make a decision about an appeal after Monday's sentencing.

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Filed under: Alaska • Child safety • Courts • Justice • U.S.
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Toni Lerh

    This so called MOTHER" is quilty all the Way!!!
    What is wrong with this Judge?
    When she asked this poor Child:"What happens when You lie to me?' – his answer tells that she DID IT BEFORE !!!
    Is our Justice asleep,are public defenders smarter then so called JUDGES.
    Some people get HUGE PUNISHMENTS for much less.
    This makes me sick to my stomach
    If this Judge ordered at least that she should have been given the same TREAT,as she did it to this little Boy,that would have been JUSTICE

    August 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. aNN

    What a rip off Probation for child abuse? Casey anthony kinda got probation and she's a killer. lol lol lol

    August 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. truthwalker

    I think this judge was very naive about this case. Behavior like this by parents does not happen just once. The only people who would ever think up bizarre, cruel punishments like this for a child much less actually do them to a child are psychopaths. And a parent who turns a blind eye and permits it is just as bad. It's cruelty. It's sadism. There is no excuse for this little helpless boy to have hotsauce poured into his mouth by his adoptive mother, or being punished with cold showers etc. This is a parent who takes innocent things that should be pleasant and normal like the shower and turns it into a frightening painful thing for a child, likewise with using the hot sauce. There is nothing normal about this whatsoever. This child should not remain in these people's custody, it was obvious from their rationalizations in court that they don't even get that they did anything wrong, they have no concept of protecting and loving a child. I also don't believe that this child has anything wrong with him whatsoever. Any "disorder" in this case I believe is on the part of the abusive parents. How horrible that they even had their older child videotaping this treatment. Just think, this is the part that they VIDEOTAPED for the public to know. This is the part they were proud of. Think what this child has had to endure the entire time he's been with them. A normal mother would be saying to her child, "Ooh, be careful with that hot sauce it's so hot" if they saw their child touching the hot sauce. Not forcing this little child to open his mouth so they could pour hot sauce into it and then forcing him to hold it in his mouth while they verbally abused him. Absolutely one of the worst stories I've ever seen. REMOVE THIS CHILD FROM THIS HOME AND LET HIM BE ADOPTED BY A FAMILY THAT WILL TREAT HIM KINDLY AND HUMANELY AND CARE ABOUT HIS WELFARE imo.

    August 30, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katerina

      This story kills me, I can't watch the video, I cry everytime. Both those boys need a better home, a SAFER home.

      September 1, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Rayne

      This happened to my siblings and me in foster care....and so much worse! She definitely does worse! It will haunt me forever! The sounds of the little boy crying reminds me of my younger brother, when we were young! Horrifying!

      October 30, 2011 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. truthwalker

    I would add that it reminds me of that case where a young woman abused her beautiful adopted Russian child to death and claimed it was because he was a "special needs" child who pushed her to the brink. The orphanage he'd come from explained to the court that he had been a normal healthy two year old. Not special needs at all when he left them. Most children who are adopted from even actual bad situations, with sensory deprivation from lack of attention and so on, can recover and develop remarkably well in loving, humane, healthy, supportive homes.

    August 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rayne

    This was done to me as a child....showers and hot sauce and worse! To hear the fear and terror in that child's voice has rocked me to my core! I forgot how terrible it was! I have a child now that is this boy's age....I can say, I have NEVER heard him cry like that...especially at my hands! This is the very reason we will be starting to foster children! This woman is a sadist! I feel for that child! He is probably confused, humiliated, and scared! Shame on her!

    October 30, 2011 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rayne

    I think she really got through to this child.......her point was loud and clear....obey..or I'll hurt you! I apologize...this has stirred up so much anger for me! So weird and crazy!

    October 30, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. texas hot sauce

    hi!,I really like your writing very much! share we keep in touch more approximately your article on AOL? I require a specialist in this space to resolve my problem. Maybe that's you! Taking a look ahead to look you.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Helen

    Reactive Attachment Disorder ( RAD) is a devastating diagnosis.These children or affected individuals are void of remorse, empathy, cause and effect thinking; they're mentally ill.I've dealt with an individual that was diagnosed at the age of 5....he doesn't think or feel like an attached person, he's not interested in getting along, loving or bonding.Before ANYONE plans on adopting they should investigate the child's background extensively, if there is a question about a diagnosis ask an OUTSIDE SOURCE about it not the adoption officials or agency!!!This women is going to the extreme to stop this boy from lying....she's only making it worse as the boy will fall deeper into" survival mode"!!Lying is a reflex with these kids, it never goes away, my 18 year stepson is still a compulsive liar.We just assume that everything he says is a lie...which may not be the case but it is the majority!!!I feel for this women in that she's always going to struggle with this boy, and there is very little support for this disorder out there.Let's look at the disorder, look at what she's trying to accomplish, and watch her failure.This is a neurological disorder, the brain is malfunctioning because of faulty wiring.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
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