L&O, Episode 4.20
Production number: 69011
First aired: 4 May 1994
  th of 456 produced in L&O  
th of 456 released in L&O
  th of 1229 released in all  
Kincaid Van Buren Nurture.jpg
Written By
Ed Zuckerman & Paris Qualles

Directed By
Jace Alexander

Briscoe and Logan investigate the disappearance of a child from her abusive foster home and find her being held by a loving but disturbed woman.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Ten-year-old Wendy Sylvester is reported missing by Janel Decker, a friend from school. Wendy's irresponsible, uncaring foster mother Beatrice Hines didn't report her missing, even though she was missing for two nights.

A visit to Wendy's alcoholic biological mother Peggy Sylvester yields a story that Beatrice's boyfriend Brian Sprague would get drunk and beat Wendy up sometimes. Peggy admits complaining about it, saying that Children's Services did nothing. Peggy also says that when it comes to being a foster mother, Beatrice is only in it for the check, and Beatrice doesn't care about any kids that she takes in.

Logan and Briscoe talk to Brian, who doesn't care where Wendy is at. Logan and Briscoe visit Beatrice again, and she says Peggy gave Wendy to her. Beatrice also says that Brian did not beat Wendy. But Beatrice is lying.

Logan and Briscoe go to the offices of Children's Services, where a social worker named Daniel Freeman tells them that Peggy used to send Wendy out to shoplift cigarettes and beer for her. Also, Peggy's not sure of who Wendy's father is.

Logan and Briscoe talk to Janel, who mentions that Wendy wrote some letters to an imaginary friend, and that the letters are in Wendy's locker at school. Logan and Briscoe read the letters. Logan and Briscoe believe that Wendy, who wanted no one besides Janel to see the letters, showed them to a teacher that she was comfortable with.

At the school, the principal tells Logan and Briscoe that from the way the grammar corrections on the letters look, volunteer teacher Arnette Fenady is the teacher Wendy showed the letters to. Logan and Briscoe begin to get the idea that Arnette might be somehow involved. To Logan, Arnette appears a bit deceptive when they talk to her.

Briscoe and Logan talk to Van Buren, learning that Arnette had been arrested in 1990 for endangering the welfare of a minor. Briscoe and Logan talk to the arresting officer, who tells them that the complaint was from the parents of a 6-year-old girl named Molly.

The detective says Arnette kept Molly overnight and then denied she had her when the parents showed up. The detective says when he got to Arnette's house, Arnette was packing Molly into her car for a trip upstate. The detective says it took three hours to get Arnette to admit that Molly wasn't her daughter.

Briscoe and Logan question Arnette, who says she was protecting Molly, who was malnourished. Arnette says that some people don't deserve to be parents. Arnette also says that Children's Services has procedures that hurt children more than help them. Arnette says that Molly ended up in foster care because her parents malnourished her. Briscoe and Logan look through the letters again, and become even more suspicious of Arnette.

Briscoe and Logan talk to Van Buren, who suggests putting Arnette under 24-hour surveillance and canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone saw Wendy. One neighbor, Mrs. Stavros, says she might have seen Wendy getting out of Arnette's car.

Briscoe and Logan talk to Judge Alexander Romney, who says that as a witness, Mrs. Stavros is a little iffy, so Judge Romney is going to limit their search warrant to where they can look, but not search. At Arnette's house, they don't find anything.

Briscoe and Logan talk to the contractor who handled some construction on Arnette's house, which included a cinder block wall in the basement. After talking to the contractor, Briscoe and Logan think Arnette has a secret room in her house.

At the precinct, Arnette's attorney, Rose Seigal, threatens to slap the cops with an injunction. Kincaid tells Briscoe and Logan to get more information before they accuse Arnette of anything. After getting another search warrant, Briscoe and Logan go back to Arnette's house.

Logan looks in a closet and discovers a hatch leading to a secret room, and finds Wendy hidden there. Judge Naomi Baum sets bail at $250,000. Wendy is questioned by Olivet. Wendy says that she and Arnette had a birthday party for a girl named Crystal, but Wendy doesn't know who Crystal is.

Wendy says that Arnette never hurt her. Olivet interviews Arnette. Arnette says she took Wendy in to protect her from Peggy, Beatrice, and Brian. It turns out that Arnette had a daughter named Crystal, who died when she was 9 months old.

Seigal talks to Stone, who says that Arnette is mentally ill. Stone thinks Arnette belongs in a psychiatric hospital. Despite Olivet's findings, Arnette is deemed competent to stand trial. Wendy, who likes Arnette, doesn't understand why Arnette is in trouble, and Arnette and Seigal believe that Arnette was right to remove Wendy from an abusive home that kept her in misery.

Seigal questions Daniel Freeman, and Freeman admits that when Wendy came to school with bruises on her while in Beatrice's custody, the investigation by Children's Services found that Wendy had been beaten, left unattended, unfed, unbathed, and barely clothed. Freeman says that Brian Sprague was arrested, and ordered to stay away from Wendy. Nothing was done about Beatrice.

Beatrice testifies that she works nights, so she has no choice but to leave Wendy by herself at night. Beatrice says Wendy can take care of herself, and Seigal wonders why Beatrice would not report Wendy missing.

While in recess, Kincaid talks to Wendy, but gets nothing. Later, Wendy is being questioned. Stone wants to go to chambers. In chambers, Stone tells Judge Randall Welch that Wendy is lying. Welch lets Stone talk to Wendy outside of the room. Wendy doesn't budge. Wendy asks Stone why he's trying to put Arnette away for protecting her.

Given Wendy's circumstances, and Wendy's own efforts to offer favorable testimony on Arnette's behalf, Arnette is an extremely sympathetic figure in the minds of the jurors. Arnette is found not guilty, and she applies for custody of Wendy.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Main cast[edit | edit source]

Recurring cast[edit | edit source]

Guest cast[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


Quotes[edit | edit source]


Background information and notes[edit | edit source]

This episode is loosely based on the Katie Beers case, about a young girl in New York named Katie Beers, who was kidnapped by a neighborhood man who said he was protecting her from her mother. Katie went on to be adopted by a wealthy family. The difference is that Katie Beers, whose mother was seen as an unfit parent, was kidnapped by an abusive man, not a well-intentioned woman like in the episode.

Episode scene cards[edit | edit source]

1 2 3

Apartment of
Peggy Sylvester
520 W. 101st Street #3F
Monday, March 6

Children's Service
7170 Broadway
Wednesday, March 8

Home Of
Arnette Fenady
998 W. 88th Street
Friday, March 10

4 5 6

Chambers of
Judge Romney
Tuesday, March 14

District Attorney's Office
Conference Room
Monday, April 3

Executive Assistant
District Attorney
Benjamin Stone
Tuesday, April 4

7 8 9

Supreme Court
Motion Hearing
Thursday, April 20

Supreme Court
Trial Part 78
Wednesday, May 17

Supreme Court
Trial Part 78
Wednesday, May 24

Previous episode:
Law & Order
Season 4
Next episode:
Seasons 1234567891011121314151617181920
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.