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Bred in Abuse

Moses Kamin endured a horrific childhood and then murdered his well-meaning adoptive parents, but the Oakland couple may not have fully known about his troubled history.

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So, what's the answer? What can be changed systemically to create a more transparent adoption process?

Hollinger said she doesn't think additional legislation will solve the problem. Instead, the adoption process involving abused and neglected children should be reformed to become more pragmatic and child-focused. Right now, Hollinger said there's not much time devoted to how "you get a troubled kid through a week or a day."


Poff and Kamin adopted Moses when he was six years old. When they first brought him home "he thought everyone was his mom," Masover said. Moses also repeatedly asked Poff if he was "going to be sent away again," Masover said.

Yet despite the early traumas, Moses "was a pretty affectionate kid when he was little," Masover said. "He was a little shy around all these adults but then he would come out."

From the earliest years with his adoptive parents, Moses was surrounded with a warm community of friends and family close to Poff and Kamin, Masover added. "Occasionally we would get together with other families and Moses seemed to get along with the other kids really well. ... I've seen it in person, I've seen it in pictures."

Masover said Poff and Kamin "knew some stories" about the abuse Moses endured. "He was starting with all the cards stacked against him and Bob and Susan knew that," Masover said. The couple also understood enough about their new son's past to start Moses in therapy from the moment they adopted him. He would remain with the same therapist until just one week before the murders.

According to a psychological evaluation conducted the year Poff and Kamin adopted Moses, his behavioral issues included trouble sleeping, poor attention, aggression, cruelty to animals, and difficulty relating to other children. He tended to engage in fantasy play with violent themes. The psychologist diagnosed Moses with Attention Deficit Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Borderline Intellectual Functioning.

In kindergarten, Moses was academically behind and it was reported that Poff and Kamin "spent a lot of time teaching him and helping him to catch up in school." They assessed him for special education but he did not qualify at the time. They made sure he saw a therapist at school everyday.

But in middle and high school, his problems continued. Moses often had a difficult time getting along with teachers and was reported to have "cussed them out." An evaluation used by Moses' lawyers in court noted that he "had a hard time getting along with others" and once even "head-butted another student" after the student had made a comment about his adoptive mother and aunt. Moses broke the other boy's nose.

As Moses grew older, his behavioral problems also appeared to take a toll on his adoptive parents who reportedly became impatient with him. In an interview by an investigator from the Alameda County Public Defender's Office, the brother of Moses' adoptive father, Bruce Kamin, stated that Susan was "strict with Moses." It was reported that she "often yelled at Moses for getting into trouble and not doing well in school."

Moses and Poff reportedly had a conflict-laden relationship. They often engaged in yelling matches at home. Moses also told Watts that he did not have a good relationship with Kamin either.

Despite these problems, Poff and Kamin refused to send Moses away, a notion suggested more than once by those close to the family, Masover said. "Susan was one of the most morally driven and committed people I've ever know in my life, and one of the things that was a cornerstone of her life's commitment was that she was never sending Moses back anywhere."

When being evaluated by Watts, during court proceedings, Moses stated that his adoptive mother "slapped [him] once." Moses explained that he did "not like when people hit or touched him on the head. When people made contact with [his] head, it reminded him of the times when he was abused by his birth mother and while he was in foster care."

Moses referred to his reaction to being touched on the head as "clicking off."

On January 26, 2012, after he murdered Poff and Kamin, Moses told police that he had had an argument with his mother over being suspended from school for using marijuana. Authorities confirmed that he was facing expulsion for the infraction.

"According to Moses, his adoptive mother started yelling at him. She hit him on the top of his head" out of frustration. At that moment, Moses told authorities, he "clicked off."

Moses choked Poff to death. He then waited for Kamin to return, fearful of his adoptive father's reaction to killing Poff, and then strangled him to death as well. He then put their bodies in the family car parked on the street, and attempted to set it on fire.

He got in the car with them, hoping to kill himself, too. When no explosion came, he returned to the house, leaving the bodies of his adoptive parents in the vehicle.

Steckler, Moses' lawyer, wrote in a letter asking for Moses to be tried in juvenile court (rather than adult criminal court), "Moses is a deeply psychologically troubled child. But by no stretch of the imagination is he evil."

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