It has been 5 years since the brutal murder of my son, Darren Russell in China. There still has been no truth or justice. The woman responsible for my son's murder continues to lie and try to discredit both my son and I. The Guangzhou Traffic Police still have not released the crucial evidence and information that Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman Henry Hyde, and I have been requesting for over a year. People involved in the negligence and cover-up of my son's case have either been promoted or are going to other areas - with no accountability at all. There still has been no Congressional Hearing on the "English Sweatshops" in China as well as the negligence, lies, and cover-up of our own U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China.
First, my son worked under deplorable conditions. Everything in the contract promised to him was a scam, even the picture of the school the person supposedly owned. The two-story building with a garden and courtyard turned out to be a rented office in a library building. The apartment was shared, had no hot running water, no heat, no air conditioning, cockroaches, and windows forced open causing my son to wake up with frost on his blanket.
Eventually this "owner" became a recruiter for two legitimate government schools. That is how my son had 1,200 students per week, grades 1-12, taught 7 days per week, and had to do nightly written lesson plans. When I was robbed during a trip in February, the Chinese police arrived and asked my son for his passport. When he said the "owner" was holding it, they told him that was illegal. But they never closed her down. She would brag to my son and I that she could get his work permit soon because she "knew people in high places both in the government and police department."
Secondly, we have been requesting various items from the Guangzhou Traffic Police for over one year. We have only received two things - my son's CAT Scan X-rays and three photos. When I met with the Traffic Police the first time, I brought proof that my son was murdered. They just laughed and refused to take the report (I had translated into Chinese )seriously. Then when I asked questions about their latest theory of how my son "was hit by a truck", they changed their story again. They were saying he was crossing a two foot metal barrier at 4:30 A.M. and a truck hit him from behind. When I questioned how he could get hit and not have any marks on his body they said, "They he wasn't crossing the barrier. He was walking across the street and a truck was driving so slowly it barely touched him." I said, "If it hit him ever so slowly, how did he crack his skull open? Why weren't there any marks anywhere else on his body - no broken bones, no bruises, no blood, etc.? Meanwhile, our U.S. Consulate kept whispering to themselves. My own translator asked how they could be so rude - both the police and our consulate. I felt so alone. The second time I met with the Traffic Police I said the photos I was sent of my son's nude body were doctored. I explained how there was make-up covering a fist mark on his left cheek. There also appeared to be a burn mark on his left shoulder which didn't show because they had his body turned so only his right shoulder would show. They became angry and showed me a binder notebook in Chinese with three photos. I think they were going to try to prove that my son didn't have the bruises on his left cheek. Two of the photos had bright red blood pouring from my son's nose, mouth and ears. You couldn't see any skin because of the volume of blood. The third photo had my son's nude body on the floor in the morgue. Next to him were some of the clothes I have been asking to have returned from the day of the murder. From the beginning, I knew what clothes he was wearing because I deducted that information from the clothes that were returned. I said he had a green silk shirt, blue Lucky U jeans, and black suede high-top Timberland shoes. There were his shoes and the jeans. I asked for them to be returned. Initially, they said the young doctor threw them out. I knew that wasn't true and here was my proof. Finally, the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou sent me three photos thinking they were the ones the consulate and I saw during out meeting with the police. But only one was the one I had seen - with the clothes. The two from the hospital were missing and two new ones from the morgue were enclosed. This makes me think there are many more things still being hid from me. I have also asked for blood tests at the scene, pathology, forensics, etc. But my efforts are futile.
From the beginning, the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou has not been consistent. I had called the U.S. Embassy in Beijing when my son was robbed and was promised help. But when I called back they said they were too far away and I would have to deal with the U.S. Consulate. My son last spoke to the consulate hours before his murder, pleading to be taken to safety either at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou or the airport. They refused. His calls were answered by a Chinese National who did nothing except call the government owned (Norinco) hotel and say, "Comfort him." She also kept telling my son the money we wired to him was sent to an incorrect account number. We spent many hours following up on that and it was a lie. Almost a year later, I withdrew the $1,500 from the same account number we wired the money into. She is the same Chinese National that sent me the hospital records of a Chinese woman suffering from depression in another hospital and not those of Darren.
Also, initially my contact at the consulate told me Darren's body didn't look like it was in any kind of accident. He sent me nude photos so I could try to figure out the cause of death. Then he denied making that statement and even sending me the photos. He also said, "Be lucky you have your son's body back. Put this behind you and move on." He is training in Virginia to be sent to Germany. The State Dept. has refused to let Chairman Hyde interview him, saying "He has moved on." The Consul General who has never said he was sorry for my loss and had all incorrect information has been promoted to head the consulate in Osaka, Japan. Where is there any accountability or justice? Another man, Charles Henning, with Public Affairs in the same consulate in Guangzhou printed lies about my son on another person's computer as if they said them. He used the site from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. I have demanded that he be held accountable for these acts and the State Dept. has only told me they "have taken care of it." Has he been taken care of the same way others have - with a promotion? I am not allowed to know because of confidentiality.
When I went to investigate my son's murder the second time in China, I was met at the airport by the U.S. Consulate. They were supposed to accompany me to my son's former schools so I could tell his students the truth. (They were told he didn't like China or them and moved back to the U.S.). I feared for my life if the person that had my son murdered showed up at the school. They promised to accompany me, but instead rushed back to the U.S. Consulate to meet two former Senators for lunch. My translator and I met with the doctor and over a four day period got Darren's actual hospital records - all on our own. I went to the school with my translator. I was also told the U.S. Consulate was understaffed. But they are the 4th largest U.S. Consulate in the world. One staff even told me they did 7,000 adoptions of Chinese children to the U.S. alone in 2004.
Chairman Henry Hyde sent staff to Guangzhou in August, 2005. He was there to look into other cases but asked if they could fill him in on serious cases. They didn't even mention Darren. When I contacted Chairman Hyde's office his staff thought Darren had to be murdered after August. The same staff made a second trip to Guangzhou to meet with the U.S. Consulate and a member of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing along with myself. He made a third trip recently and the State Dept. was supposed to send a congressional letter to the consulate. They omitted the primary congressional report which referred to Darren and only sent the two page addendum referring to another American teacher with a similar story dealing with the U.S. Consulate. The State Dept. purposely withheld information from their own staff, the U.S. Consulate. When the staff from Chairman Hyde's office wanted to discuss Darren's case, they were not prepared without the congressional letter.
I was at a Grief Conference in Tampa, Florida, and the Director of Victim Assistance from the FBI said she was familiar with Darren's case. Later, she said she got him mixed up with another person but would forward the information on. Congressman Waxman's office was told there would be an investigation. They Congressman Waxman received a letter dated August 7, stating "All of the information Mrs. Russell provided to the Office of Victim Assistance was forwarded to the FBI's Legal Attache (Legat) in Beijing. The Legat thoroughly reviewed the circumstances of her son's death; however the Legat's review failed to identify any violation within the FBI's investigative jurisdiction. The Department of State (DOS) is the most appropriate agency to assist Mrs. Russell in this matter." However, it was the DOS that told me the FBI is called in to bring bodies back, do autopsies, etc. when there is terrorism or a violent death involved. There is no doubt my son was murdered - being struck over the head with blunt force and had his skull fractured. So why isn't the FBI involved? I don't understand.
Again, I am not saying all schools in China are "English Sweatshops." There are many honest schools and people throughout the country of China. But with the push to teach students English before the 2008 Olympics, many unscrupulous schools, recruiters, etc. are involved. Their only goals are greed and money. I don't want this to ever happen to another foreign teacher again. I also want the U.S. Consulates and Embassies to assist Americans with serious problems when they request help.