A Killer Nanny
Charlotte Foster tutors four boys, is active in the Junior League and is a board member of the Children's Museum of Houston, where she conducts tours for first-graders. She volunteers at her three sons' schools, drops off treats for Christmas coffees she can't attend and says her time is not her own.
Five years ago, Foster co-owned a communications company with her brother-in-law in Dallas; she was regularly out of town for meetings and needed someone to pick up her sons from school, take them to soccer practice and fix dinner on nights she couldn't -- so she hired a part-time nanny. Even when she was in town, Foster says, it was nice having an extra person to help with her boys, now aged 16, 14 and 12. "The three kids always had sports events on three different fields all at the same time," she says. Also, having a nanny allowed her one-on-one time to help each child with his homework.
Rachel, the first nanny Foster hired from the Houston-based Nanny Professionals Inc., told Foster during the interview that she had been accused of shoplifting at Foley's, Foster says, and that she had a clean driving record, but neglected to tell Foster that she had been in a major wreck the weekend before. She yelled at the boys in public so much, Foster says, that complete strangers at the country club told Foster to fire her. After nearly a year, the nanny told Foster that the only way to discipline her middle child was to spank him; Foster fired her.
Foster spent the summer nanny-free; in the fall, the placement agency sent over Veronica. "She was a doll," Foster says. The boys loved her. Veronica worked with them for a year before she left, intending to get a teaching certificate. The boys liked the next nanny, too -- Arlene was college-age and they listened to the same music. A few weeks after hiring Arlene, Foster went out of town for the weekend. On Monday morning, Foster says, the agency informed her that Arlene wasn't coming back, "for personal reasons."
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She says the agency told her that the only available nanny candidates were men. So three years ago, Foster hired a brown-haired, blue-eyed man with a high forehead and a square jaw who introduced himself to her as Stephen Glenn Davis. The nanny pronounced his name "Stefan" and spoke with a slight foreign accent, which he explained by saying his mother was Belgian.
He started working in mid-October 1999; during his first week, Foster went with him to pick up the boys from school and showed him where the soccer fields were. A few nights after he started working, Foster had to attend a meeting. Foster's husband told the nanny to make the kids macaroni and cheese for dinner, but the nanny said he didn't know how.
That set off an alarm in Foster's husband's head. Foster told him that it was probably a cultural difference -- maybe Kraft Dinners aren't a staple in European diets.
Still, when Foster's husband went to work the next day, he asked his company's head of security to conduct a background check on the nanny.
About two weeks later, they learned that "Nanny Stephen" was a convicted murderer who had escaped from custody in Switzerland.
In Texas, nannies aren't required to take a test or have any kind of training. They aren't regulated, monitored or watched. Five years ago, New York enacted Kieran's Law, which allows parents to send a potential nanny's fingerprints to the FBI and the Division of Criminal Justice Services for a comprehensive criminal background search.
The law is named after Kieran Dunne, a ten-month-old boy murdered by his nanny. When the baby tugged the nanny's hair, she picked him up, threw him across the room and cracked his skull. Kieran's mother, Peggy Dunne, testified before the New York state senate that before hiring the nanny, she had asked the FBI and the New York state police for a copy of the nanny's criminal history, but she was told that information was only for law enforcement officials. After Kieran died, Dunne testified that she had learned the nanny had an extensive criminal history: There was a bench warrant for her arrest, she had a suspended driver's license, false license plates, and a history of violent outbursts and firings. The nanny had falsified references and lied about her education and employment history.
Texas legislators have batted around the idea of creating a law like New York's and have talked about licensing or regulating nannies, says Estella Olguin, Children's Protective Services spokeswoman for child care licensing. But no one has taken serious steps toward legislation, she says. Parents oppose the idea because it would hike up already high child care costs, she says, and prevent parents from asking the 15-year-old next door to watch the kids for an hour or two.
In many cases where nannies have been convicted of killing children, background checks missed huge parts of the nanny's life, says Pamela Rowse, a nurse who founded the Kierra Harrison Foundation for Child Safety after her granddaughter was murdered.
Nanny employment agencies tell parents that it isn't safe to hire a nanny off the street. Pat Cascio, the Houston-based president of the International Nanny Association, says agencies ask questions that parents wouldn't think of when screening candidates. She says she's able to weed out career nannies from people who don't speak English and aren't qualified for any other job. "Like I've told parents before, 'Would you really hire someone that McDonald's wouldn't hire?' "
At Cascio's nanny employment agency, Morningside Nannies, she receives 40 to 80 calls a week from potential nannies; only half of the candidates are invited into the office for face-to-face interviews -- of those, six are sent to interview with parents. Marsha Epstein, president of the American Nanny Company in Boston and past board member of the International Nanny Association, says that before she hires a nanny, she checks four to six references and demands a verifiable, gap-free employment timeline. "You've got to go back and research every inch of their lives," Epstein says. "You have to be a detective."
Lamar Mathews, president and founder of the Houston-based Nanny Professionals Inc., the agency Foster used, says potential nannies fill out an eight-page application peppered with open-ended child care philosophy questions.
After a family decides to hire a nanny, two references rate the nanny's ethical conduct, initiative, judgment, attendance, punctuality, flexibility and personal appearance.
"It's pretty thorough," Mathews says. "Because we're dealing with children, it's so important that we get these references."
Last, before parents officially hire a nanny, Mathews says, her private investigator conducts a criminal history search. "We want the most up-to-date information," Mathews says, explaining why this is left until the last minute. Plus, it's the only service that actually costs anything. Mathews says she discloses everything the investigator finds and leaves the final choice to the parents. "Some might hire someone with a DUI or who stole a lipstick when they were 19," Mathews says. "It's up to the family's judgment, it's their decision." None of the nannies actually works for Mathews; she emphasizes that she's just a go-between who takes an 8 or 9 percent cut of the nanny's annual salary.
Stephen Glenn Davis applied for a job at Nanny Professionals Inc. on September 14, 1998. He said he was the father of three boys, aged eight, two and 11 months. He claimed that he was born in Stockton, California, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, had never been arrested, and signed a release authorizing the agency to conduct a criminal background check.
On his application, the nanny wrote that he loved the fast way children learn and show their feelings. He said he was patient with kids and always tried to earn their respect, listen and understand their problems.
"He had good answers," Mathews says.
Foster's husband had never interviewed a nanny with her -- he had always let her hire and fire -- but he sat in on this interview. "What guy signs up to be a nanny? That thought's going through my Texas husband's mind," Foster says. Male nannies, recently dubbed "mannies" by The New York Times, have gained popularity in the last few years -- they're usually young guys who skateboard, and build forts and LEGO landscapes with kids after school. Still, Cascio says she's wary of a man who wants to work at home with children because she's heard horror stories of perverts and pedophiles; in one case, a male nanny stashed kiddie porn inside the house.
Stephen Glenn Davis's résumé was on file at Nanny Professionals Inc. for more than a year before he interviewed with the Fosters. Most families aren't interested in even considering a man, Mathews says. "It's reverse sexism," she says. Foster says she was open to hiring a male nanny because he could play sports with her sons. The agency sent two men to interview with Foster. The first worked in the YMCA's after-school program and was active in his church. He was a nice young man, Foster says, but he wasn't athletic, so Foster didn't think he would click with her kids.
The second was Davis, a six-foot-tall, 160-pound man who spoke several languages. During his interview on October 12, 1999, he told Foster that when he worked in Brazil, the maid kidnapped one of his children. He said he moved to Houston three years ago and worked part-time at a car dealership because he wanted to spend more time with his kids. As a part-time, latchkey nanny, he would work only after school -- he planned to spend most of the day with his two youngest children and his wife could watch them in the evening. "He had all the right credentials," Foster says.
The next day, Foster says, the nanny agency told her that Davis had interviewed with a West University family and they had offered him a job, but the nanny said he would rather work for the Fosters, so they hired him.
" 'Yes! I've got someone to play soccer with my boys,' I thought to myself," Foster says.
But combining Davis's résumé with his interview, Foster couldn't put together a chronological employment timeline. There was a monthlong gap the nanny explained by saying he had to take care of his sick mother. "I like my paperwork neat and clean, and this guy's paperwork wasn't neat and clean," she says.
After the macaroni incident, Foster's husband was suspicious, so he got the nanny's social security number and conducted his own background check.
The Friday ending the nanny's first full work week, Foster was co-chairing an auction at her son's school. She picked the kids up, came home and had 15 minutes to change clothes and head back to the auction.
"What are the kids doing tonight?" her husband asked. She told him they were going to rent movies and video games and order pizza. Her husband said he'd take the kids to Blockbuster while she changed clothes, because he didn't want the children to leave the house with the nanny.
"This guy's not checking out," Foster remembers him saying. "I've got a security guard down the street in case he tries to leave the house."
They went to the auction, came home, paid the nanny for the week and told him they would see him Monday. At 11 p.m. they piled the three boys into the car and drove three hours to their house in Salado.
Foster says the companies for which the nanny claimed to have worked in Brazil had never heard of him. On Monday morning the background check showed that Davis had a criminal record in California -- a felony charge involving a firearm -- and had filed a complaint that someone had stolen his identity.
"We didn't know who he was. We just knew he wasn't who he said he was," Foster says.
Accompanied by a police officer and his company's head of security, Foster's husband told the nanny they had discovered that he wasn't Stephen Glenn Davis and terminated his employment.
That evening, the Fosters sat their sons down and told them the nanny had been fired. Because she was afraid Davis might try to kidnap her children, Foster told the boys that if they ever saw Stephen at school or a soccer match they should run in the opposite direction as fast as they could, screaming for help. "He knew our whole routine," Foster says.
The Fosters wrote a severance check and delivered it to Nanny Professionals Inc. But Mathews never gave it to the nanny; she says she was afraid that if he got his money, he would leave town. Plus, she didn't think he necessarily deserved a severance check because he had been hired on false pretenses.
"I kept stalling in hopes that I could get some kind of law enforcement person to pick him up," Mathews says. "I was afraid he would disappear and we wouldn't be able to find him."
The nanny left an angry message on Foster's husband's cell phone saying he was going to get the money the Fosters owed him.
"Then I'm back on high alert," Foster says.
The head of security picked up the check from Mathews and took it to the nanny. He told the nanny that the Fosters are honorable people and if anything happened in the future, the Fosters would not be responsible.
"As he's walking out the door, three federal agents are walking in," Foster says. "If this guy gets out of jail, he's not going to look for the nanny company -- he's going to look for us."
In the summer of 1999, Californian Stephen Glenn Davis applied for a loan but was denied because he had bad credit. He ordered a copy of his credit report and discovered that someone claiming to be Stephen Glenn Davis lived in Houston and had applied for a passport. The real Davis didn't have a passport and had never tried to get one.
He contacted the San Francisco Police Department and made an official complaint on August 18, 1999, with the San Francisco field office of the Diplomatic Security Service, the law enforcement branch of the Department of State, which handles identity fraud, passport fraud and terrorism.
A copy of the false passport was sent to the Houston field office on October 27, 1999. The next day, special agent Jay Smith and other federal agents went to the nanny's apartment. "We didn't know who this individual was," Smith says. "We just knew who he wasn't."
The nanny lived in a two-bedroom 1,000-square-foot apartment at The Lodge on Eldridge Parkway. The sprawling complex's buildings are covered in gray rocks to create a sitting-in-the-Alps-sipping-cocoa-before-hitting-the-slopes feel. There are free mountain bike rentals, an indoor racquetball court, a peanut-shaped pool and Tuesday-night fitness parties.
The nanny's building is located in the back of the complex. Coincidentally, Smith says, the agents arrived at apartment 2116 just moments after the Fosters' severance check was delivered.
When the nanny opened the brick-red door, agents recognized him from the fraudulent passport photo. Smith explained that they were investigating a case of identity fraud and told the nanny that a person in California had possibly stolen his identity. The nanny invited the agents inside and sat down at his kitchen table. When they asked if he had a driver's license or any identification, he produced the fake passport, which constituted a federal felony, Smith says.
In investigating identity theft, agents ask questions to which most people know the answers: the name of their first-grade teacher or their high school mascot. If a man claims to be from Mississippi, Smith asks him to draw a map, tell him the state capital and point to its location on the map. "If that is truly who they are, they're gonna know answers like that," Smith says.
The more questions the agents asked, the more hesitant the nanny's answers became. "He pretty much had his story down pat until we started shooting some holes in it," Smith says. After 30 minutes, the nanny cracked.
"I said, 'Now look, we've talked to the Stephen Glenn Davis who we believe to be the true Stephen Glenn Davis -- and we know you're not him. And you know you're not him. Correct?' " Smith says.
The nanny nodded.
He said his name was Norberto Blake Del Castillo and he was born September 15, 1960, in Queretaro, Mexico. In 1987, he entered the country at a lax border crossing by claiming to be a United States citizen.
The remainder of the interview was conducted in Spanish -- but even when he spoke Spanish, agents detected a slight central European accent. He told the agents he met Stephen Glenn Davis through a mutual friend, and said that Davis gave him his social security card and birth certificate. "Keep in mind, this is all a made-up story," Smith says. "To be honest, we don't know how he obtained these documents."
All officials know is that he did get them -- and in 1988, the nanny illegally applied for a passport in Honolulu. Nine years later, he applied for a replacement passport at the United States consulate in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, claiming he had lost his on a Bolivian bus. Agents confiscated both passports, arrested the nanny and booked him into the Harris County jail.
The next day the nanny appeared before federal Judge Frances Stacey, United States magistrate for the Southern District, and was charged with possession of a false passport. The judge ordered a probable cause and detention hearing three days later.
The nanny's fingerprints were sent to the FBI, but he didn't have a criminal record in the United States -- which was further evidence that he wasn't Davis. The Mexican consulate was notified that someone claiming to be a Mexican national had been arrested; Smith says the consul reported that while the nanny was knowledgeable about Mexico, it was doubtful that he was really Mexican.
Before the November 1 hearing, the nanny's court-appointed attorney introduced him as Hanspeter Bieri. Because the nanny had already proved that he could get a believable fake passport, the judge ordered he be held without bond until trial.
An Interpol check revealed that Hanspeter Bieri, born September 15, 1961, was wanted for murder and armed robbery in Switzerland. The following day, Interpol faxed a copy of Bieri's mug shots and fingerprints.
According to a report from Zurich's Kantonspolizei, Bieri had two prior convictions and a string of arrests, including violations of federal drug laws, car theft and burglary. According to Swiss police reports, on May 1, 1983, Bieri and Rene Wittwer held up a nightclub. In the course of the robbery, a man was murdered.
Bieri was arrested and held for a year and a half before being taken in for pretrial questioning. Around 4 p.m., Bieri asked if he could use the restroom. Inside the bathroom was a one- by four-foot window that opened at a 45 degree angle; he removed the window pane, jumped out of the second-story window, landed on a roof 15 feet above the ground and disappeared. "That was the last they saw of him until we encountered him in Houston," Smith says.
Bieri was tried in absentia, convicted of murder and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Informed that their prisoner had been recovered, the Swiss made it clear they wanted Bieri back, badly.
Since Bieri was a confirmed escape risk, he was guarded around the clock by U.S. marshals and held in a constantly lit, solitary cell in the Harris County jail. The first week of January 2000, Bieri pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor crime of knowingly possessing a false passport. He was sentenced to time served, and the judge ordered his deportation. Bieri didn't fight deportation, Smith says. "He was ready to get out of the Harris County jail."
On January 27, 2000, Bieri was handcuffed and escorted aboard KLM flight 662. The direct flight to Zurich departed Houston at 4:15 p.m.
Bieri's Bolivian wife had no idea that her husband wasn't Stephen Glenn Davis. Their two sons were born in Brazil, but they were American citizens because of their father -- suddenly they were illegal immigrants. Officials also discovered that Bieri was still legally married to a woman in Mexico who believed his name was Norberto and had given birth to his eldest son.
"It was a huge mess," Smith says.
Immigration and Naturalization Service officials met with representatives from the Brazilian, Bolivian and Swiss consulates to determine the children's nationality. "The Swiss claimed them," Smith says. Switzerland gave the children citizenship and granted his Bolivian wife legal residency. "Children of a Swiss father automatically are Swiss," says Alfred Gabriel, Swiss consul in Houston.
Bieri's wife decided to remain married to him despite his deception. Two days before Bieri was deported, she and their two sons moved to Zurich to wait for Bieri's scheduled prison release in 2015.
After Bieri returned to Switzerland, journalist Alex Baur wrote several articles detailing Bieri's bad childhood: He was abandoned at birth by his unwed mother, never knew his father and grew up in 19 different orphanages and institutions.
Yes, he had committed crimes in Switzerland, Baur wrote, but in the Americas, Bieri had socialized himself. He attended high school in Hawaii, studied literature at a Mexican university and was a devoted husband and father. The articles say that Bieri taught English and French in Barcelona, translated a book in Venezuela and worked at a hotel in Acapulco before moving to Houston, where he sold cars and his identity was discovered.
On his Web site, Baur posted happy pictures of Bieri and his wife and a shot of Bieri shaking hands with the president of Venezuela at the 1997 Andes Summit in Bolivia. Baur wrote, "Welcome back home in Switzerland, dear Hanspeter -- Du hast Dich offensichtlich verandert, Deine Heimat nicht," which translates to "You have changed, your country has not."
Baur says his articles led to Bieri's receiving a new trial. "They revealed plenty of new facts," says Bieri, talking on his cell phone in Switzerland. "I didn't have a chance to defend myself 18 years ago; I was tried in absentia. My lawyer had no right to represent me, and some laws were broken right there."
He says that when he was 20 he enlisted in the Swiss army. After 19 weeks of basic service, he was promoted to lieutenant and planned to attend military school, but he says the Swiss army discharged him when they discovered that he had a criminal record for stealing motorbikes and chocolate bars.
Bieri says he met an older guy, a "lowlife" with an extensive criminal record who talked him into stealing car radios and eventually cars. In May 1983, the two decided to rob the Black Out Disco, a nightclub near the Zurich International Airport in Kloten. During the robbery, Bieri says, a large club patron grabbed him. "He started fighting with me and he fought me down to the floor and he climbed on top of me," Bieri says. "During this fight, one shot got out of my gun."
In the parking lot, Bieri had trouble starting the car because his bullet had pierced the ring finger on his left hand. A guy from the club ran after them and was trying to force open the car door. "Do something," Bieri told his partner. Through a one-inch crack in the window, his partner shot and killed the man. "After he fired that shot, I started the car and we got away," Bieri says.
Bieri testified that when he told his accomplice to "do something," he meant that he wanted him to do something to help start the car. He says he wasn't even aware that someone was outside the car because he was in extreme pain and bleeding heavily.
According to Swiss newspaper reports, after Bieri's return to Switzerland, the victim's family told the court they forgave Bieri; they didn't want him to be separated from his young sons, so they asked the judge to dismiss the charges.
The obergericht, a superior high court in Switzerland, said that Bieri was a changed man but he was still a murderer. It handed down a guilty verdict and a much-shortened five-year sentence.
"I got a very fair consideration," Bieri says.
He served less than half the sentence and was released from prison in June 2001.
On July 18, 2000, Foster filed a lawsuit against Nanny Professionals Inc. The petition says that Mathews's company claimed to have verified that the nanny had no criminal history. Unfortunately, the petition says, Davis has "an extensive criminal background," including convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and being under the influence of a controlled substance. Then the Fosters discovered that the nanny was actually Hanspeter Bieri, a convicted murderer and robber.
The Fosters ask for a refund of their $600 referral fee, $450 for the nanny's wages, plus the $840 severance check, $544 to change 13 locks and $3,670 spent on the comprehensive criminal background investigation.
"We decided to sue because we never even got as much as an apology or any kind of empathy from the agency," Foster says. "No empathy at all, and we've had a murderer in the house."
Had Mathews refunded the fees and sincerely said she was sorry, Foster says, she wouldn't have sued.
Mathews informed the Fosters that she would gladly refund their referral fee, pay for rekeying their locks and any other expenses -- as long as the Fosters signed a waiver promising they wouldn't sue. "I was happy to do it; I just needed the release signed," Mathews says. "I expressed my concern and sorrow over what happened, but maybe I didn't do it good enough."
In the original answer to the lawsuit, Nanny Professionals Inc. says the Fosters' contract states that NPI is not responsible if anything bad happens after hiring the nanny. The response says the suit is groundless and meant to harass Mathews and tarnish her reputation.
There are only two complaints on file against Nanny Professionals Inc. at the Better Business Bureau. One is from a woman who didn't like her nanny and wanted her money back -- Mathews refused and offered her a onetime free replacement nanny. The other is from Michelle Gessner, who says she hired a nanny from Nannies of The Woodlands, but since the nanny also worked for Nanny Professionals Inc., Mathews's office billed her credit card a $600 referral fee. Gessner was given a $527 refund; she wrote a letter for the BBB's file urging parents to read the agency's contract carefully. "The fine print contains onerous and almost criminal terms and conditions," she wrote.
But although both complaints said parents had contacted attorneys, the Fosters are the first to file suit against the agency. This lawsuit is "intentional, unreasonable, malicious and committed with ill will and evil motive," Mathews's attorney wrote. Mathews countersued under the theory of "malicious prosecution" because the suit was "inconvenient and embarrassing."
Mathews says that as soon as the Fosters informed her of Davis's criminal background, she called both HPD and the FBI, gave them the nanny's address and begged them to arrest him.
Her theory was that if they could find the nanny and fingerprint him, they could discover his true identity. "We took action immediately," Mathews says. "I wouldn't want any other family to hire him as a nanny. I was very concerned."
She says she spoke to the State Department's case agent in California and tipped off local agents the day they arrested him.
"We did everything we could, and we even helped," says Mathews's lawyer, Stacey L. Barnes, an attorney at Broemer & Associates.
Mathews fired her private investigator and sued her for not uncovering Stephen Glenn Davis's criminal history. Mathews and her attorneys say that in California, counties store criminal records in separate boroughs and that the private investigator slipped up by checking only a central location.
"I am just incredibly upset that my private investigator, whom I trusted to give me accurate information, gave me inaccurate information," Mathews says.
Kathy Griffin, owner of K. Griff Investigations, is the daughter of Michael "Griff" Griffin, a private investigator who has repeatedly campaigned for City Council and has owned Griff's Shenanigans, a Montrose Irish bar, for 30 years.
Griffin says she's conducted background checks on almost all of Mathews's nannies for the past 12 years. She says she doesn't normally search out of state, but she did this as a favor to Mathews, because the Fosters are VIP clients. She didn't have her researcher hand-search every county courthouse in California because Mathews didn't pay her to. Mathews paid her only $30 to check the nanny's driver's license and social security number.
"They hired her for a low-budget search," says Griffin's Houston attorney, Rex Burch. "It's like if you go to a car wash and you say, 'I want the basic wash,' you don't also get waxed and your wheels cleaned and your tires scrubbed and your engine degreased. You get the basic wash."
Still, Griffin says, she did some extra digging and informed Mathews's office that the nanny was an imposter. She says she expected Mathews to thank her. Instead, Mathews fired her.
Griffin's attorney says that the reason Davis's criminal record was not discovered was that his felony charge was prosecuted in municipal court -- he says Griffin searched the county criminal court, which had no arrest record.
Yet when the Houston Press called the San Joaquin County Courthouse, public information officer Leanne Kozak said Davis's criminal history dates back to 1990, when he was arrested for possession, manufacturing or selling dangerous weapons. Over the next ten years he was charged with drug-related offenses, DUI and domestic violence. In August 1995, he was charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a sawed-off shotgun -- the Stockton Record reported that Stephen Glenn Davis was accused of attacking his neighbor with a meat cleaver. Last October he was sentenced to 16 months in prison after pleading guilty to driving under the influence and having drugs and a loaded gun in his car.
"Maybe you just got a smarter clerk," Burch says. He says there are 5,000 reasons why Griffin and her researcher didn't discover Davis's criminal record. Maybe the files weren't in the computer three years ago, or maybe the clerk misspelled his name.
But the fact that the criminal record wasn't discovered is irrelevant, he says. During the upcoming trial's discovery period, Foster testified that the nanny interviewed on October 12, 1999, and started working at her house two days later. Griffin's initial criminal history report saying he had a clear record in San Joaquin County is dated October 19, 1999.
Even if Griffin's investigation had revealed that Davis spent a lot of time in the back of a patrol car, Burch says, the nanny had already spent five days working in the Fosters' home.
"And that's because NPI didn't even bother to wait for the results before they put him out there," Burch says.
Mathews says she has no idea as to what date the nanny started working for the Fosters; it's not listed in her file. Typically, after the background check is conducted, Mathews sits down with the nanny and the parents and runs through the contract. But Foster was always too impatient and eager to have nannies start immediately, and so after the interview, she invited them to work on a trial basis without informing the agency, says Mathews's former assistant, Ronda McCullough. "Charlotte is desperate -- she's gotta have someone right away," McCullough says.
After Bieri interviewed, McCullough says, Foster didn't return her phone calls. A few days later, Foster told her she had hired the nanny, and said to bill her credit card, McCullough says.
Bieri says it's ridiculous that the Fosters are suing the nanny agency. "There was no way that they could ever know that I wasn't Stephen Davis -- I had documents," he says. "I had a birth certificate and an identification."
He says even he didn't know that Davis had a criminal history. In a telephone interview, Bieri sticks to the first story he told federal agents about meeting Davis through a mutual friend; Bieri told him he had problems in Europe and needed an American identity. "I didn't tell him I was a fugitive," Bieri says.
He says the 18-year-old Davis happily handed over his birth certificate and social security number and didn't even charge him. "It was no big deal," Bieri says. "It was a favor."
Bieri said he was happy to talk, but just as in his interview with the special agents, the more detailed the questions became, the less willing he was to answer them. He won't explain or discuss what happened in the 17 years since he jumped out the bathroom window. "I have my very deep and personal reasons. And others," he wrote in an e-mail. If the truth was told, "some people could not like it."
He says he moved to Houston because he had friends here and he was just trying to make a fresh start -- reading the paper, he saw the nanny agency's ad. "That seemed like a job I could get pretty easily," he says. He had three kids, he had worked as a teacher, and he knew he could do it. "It was a pretty logical decision," he says. "I'm good with kids."
He says everything went well during his two weeks at the Fosters' -- he picked the boys up from school, took them to soccer practice, fixed dinner and helped with their homework. "They were well taken care of," he says. "The kids were great, they accepted me, no problem."
He believes that the Fosters are the ones who ratted him out and tipped off federal agents about Davis's criminal background. "That is when and where it all came down," he says.
When he returned to Switzerland, he says, he made a deal with the government. "That is why I got off the hook easily," he says. He won't say exactly what the deal entailed.
He says he never intended to kidnap the kids and he doesn't have any desire to return to the States and seek revenge. "Nobody has done anything wrong [other] than myself," he says. "I committed a crime exactly 20 years ago. And that's it. The Fosters seem to want to take advantage of a situation which caused them no harm at all."
Currently he works as a customer representative for a company that sells medical diagnostic supplies. He visits doctors at hospitals and sells blood and urine tests. He lives with his wife and kids in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. There are 56 Hanspeter Bieris listed in the Swiss online telephone directory, but he has abandoned that name. He won't reveal his new name; nobody knows who he really is, he says.
There are a million horror stories about nannies shaking babies to death, hitting, spanking and screaming at kids. Diana Fadrique, owner and president of Babywatch of Houston, has seen nannies slap and shake children too young and too small to fight back.
She's watched nannies lock children in the bedroom and scream until 30 minutes before parents come home. Her nanny cams have recorded nannies rifling through parents' private, personal possessions and nannies sexually molesting children.
Whenever a bad baby-sitter story is splashed on the news, Fadrique says, she gets a whole new set of nanny cam clients.
Fortunately, Foster says, nothing bad happened to her boys when they were with her nanny. "The horror is, what was he planning?" Foster says. "Was he looking for a safe place to start all over again? Or was this an opportunity? Robbery or kidnapping?"
The fact that the nanny mentioned his kid allegedly being kidnapped made Foster believe that he was going to snatch one of her younger sons.
Maybe the nanny really did just want a new start, she says. Maybe he wasn't looking to hurt her or her children. If so, he was just unlucky. "The poor idiot just bought the wrong identity to get into the country," Foster says.
The Fosters' trial date against the nanny agency has been postponed until May. Before they started taking depositions, Foster spent $12,000. She went back to using her old, temporary baby-sitting agency and hired a friend's daughter to sit for her.
Her kids have almost outgrown nannies now that her oldest son can drive. As a result of the whole experience, she says, her youngest son is anxious all the time -- always checking under beds and in closets. He sleeps with his brothers, or in the guest room with the drapes drawn, two night-lights and the door blocked. Last night he insisted on sleeping in his mother's room.
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