The Ankeny case in some ways mirrors the recent child abuse cases that ended with the deaths of Iowa teens Natalie Finn and Sabrina Ray, who also were adopted out of foster care.

Explosive fights, tantrums, alleged abuse and profanity-laced yelling were reported to police dozens of times over the last decade inside the home of John and Joyce Bell of Ankeny.

A Reader’s Watchdog review of more than 70 police incidents at the home suggests a couple who increasingly struggled to parent the disabled children they adopted from foster care.

In all, the Bells adopted nine children with disabilities from state care, according to two adopted daughters.

The increasing turmoil came to a head when the couple’s 21-year-old adopted daughter, Krystal, posted videos this month on Facebook of her 16-year-old brother with multiple disabilities being struck by both parents.

John Bell, 55, and his wife Joyce, 57, now face felony charges of child endangerment causing bodily injury after child-protective workers removed their 16-year-old and 17-year-old sons July 12.


Jerry Foxhoven, the new human services chief named by Gov. Kim Reynolds last month, says confidentiality laws prevent him from speaking directly about the Bells’ history with the agency.

And he said he had not seen the videos that prompted child protective workers to place the two teen boys in a shelter and police to arrest the Bells on Thursday.

But Foxhoven said any incident of alleged abuse captured on video needs to be considered in the context in which it happened. Generally, children with a range of disabilities, especially teenagers, can be challenging to parents.

Foxhoven noted Iowa’s Department of Human Services already has made procedural changes because of the abuse deaths of Sabrina Ray of Perry last May and Natalie Finn of West Des Moines last October.

It’s also undergoing a