On August 7, 2008 Brian Dale Dykstra, 31,was charged with 2nd degree murder in the 2005 death of his adopted Russian son Isaac Jonathan Dykstra, 21 months old. Dykstra surrendered to Johnson County, Iowa authorities on August 8 and was released on $15,000 bond. He submitted a written plea of Not Guilty on October 2 in Johnson County District Court. Dykstra currently lives in South Carolina where his wife, Dr. Lisa Dykstra, is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at Clemson University. She was not at home at the time of the alleged beating and has not been charged. I have been unable to find the employment status of Brian Dykstra (but he is not the actor/comedian/playright of the same name).

Isaac was born November 18, 2003 in Krasnoyarsk and adopted from an orphanage there.

An Iowa City Police Department press release says that on August 13, 2005 officers were sent to Dykstra’s home after receiving an abandoned 911 call from that address. On callback, Dykstra told the dispatcher that Isaac was having a ‘little seizure” and difficulty breathing from what “might be related to a head injury.” Responding units from the Iowa City Police, Iowa City Fire Department, and Johnson County Ambulance Service found the baby on the living room floor unconscious, with labored breathing and obvious head injuries. Isaac was transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics Emergency Treatment Center for what police describe as massive brain swelling, severe bleeding inside the skull, and retinal swelling in both eyes. He also had severe bruising on his torso and legs. Doctors said the injuries happened earlier in the day and were inconsistent with Brian Dykstra’s explanations. Isaac underwent emergency brain surgery and never regained consciousness. He was declared brain dead on August 14.

Isaac reportedly lived with the Dykstras for three months. So far, I’ve been unable to learn details of the adoption. According to Luke Haverhals, a friend of the couple, writing in the Cedar Rapids Gazette Online (August 10, 2008), Isaac had recently been treated for club foot at University Hospitals. Haverhals claims that after the removal of the cast, just days before his death, Isaac:

…and was able, as a year and a half year old, to walk normally for the first time (to the delight of his adoring parent). Literally, a few days after getting his cast off, Issac fell down hard (mind you he had not learned to fall like other kids his age) and hit his head on the floor one night playing at home. He cried, got over it, and started playing again. Brian and Lisa being worried first time parents called the hospital (Mercy on Call) to see if they should bring him in, but Isaac had quit crying and was back playing like millions of other kids who fall down, cry about it, and then get over it.

Haverhals blames Dykstra’s arrest on the “‘opinion’ of a well-intentioned, but misinformed and ignorant/incompetent doctor” and calls for the firing of “the unjust “fraudulent, pathetic, backhanded and outright incompetent investigators.”

Another Dykstra friend, John Johnson, describing Dykstra as a “christian, really mellow person,” complains in the same section, “it’s pathetic how media paints a terrible picture of a great guy just to create a story.”

The Dykstras supported Habitat for Humanity and were active members of the New Life Community Church (Reformed Church of America) in Coralville. According to Luke Haverhals, on August 13 Lisa had left for a church consistery retreat and Brian was doing dishes when he heard a thump in the living room and found the baby on the floor.

Lisa Dykstra received her doctorate in Second Language Acquisition with an emphasis in linguistics from the University of Iowa in Spring 2006. She dedicated her dissertation to Isaac.


The injuries to Isaac described by police are consistent with shaken baby syndrome, not a fall on the floor. Like several other dead Russian adoptees, he had lived with his Forever Family a short amount of time and was left home alone with one parent. Little explanation has been given as to why it took police three years to file charges. Luke Haverhals claims that authorities considered Dykstra a suspect from Day One, twisted testimony from friends, and taken statements out of context to “fit their preconceived notions of the case.” Despite Haverhals claim, it appears that the police carefully constructed their case. 39 witnesses, including 6 police and 9 doctors are expected to testify for the state. This length in prosecution is not without precedent. Logan Higginbotham was killed in 1998, but her mother, Laura, wasn’t prosecuted and convicted until 2004.

NOTE: Isaac has been added to the Forever Family–Forever Dead memorial page.

Thanks to E Case.


  1. Of course it went under the radar.

    It involves adoption and WE know how saintly those who adopt are. They are
    beyond reproach.

    Or they think they are seems to me there are way too many that aren’t.

    Thought Troy was his lawyer seems he’s into physical therapy probably a friend.

  2. Who says the charges are false Troy? Of course Dykstra is going to say he didn’t kill this poor baby, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t. i have never heard of a child dying from just falling on the floor either.

  3. I am a friend. I was privileged to know Isaac. I also know many of the facts of this case. This innocent death was a great tragedy that has many victims including the Dykstra family.

    In light of the current status of the situation, I am thankful that, if it occurs, a trial will shed light on the indisputable truth.

    I can tell you that this situation has changed the way I interpret news reports.

  4. “Thought Troy was his lawyer seems he’s into physical therapy probably a friend”

    or just another bastard hating christian

  5. Mr. Vander Molen:

    Can you please share which adoption agency the Dykstras used to adopt Issac?

    Unfortunately, Issac’s death fits closely within the parameters of the OTHER murdered Russian adoptees’ deaths. Including the fact Mr. Dykstra is no different from any other EE AParent who has been charged/arraigned/jailed in such situations.

    Elizabeth Case
    [email protected]

  6. I actually cannot remember off-hand, and if I could I would not care to share that information. I will say that the agency did their due diligence and found what the jury will realize… this is a loving couple that was the perfect family for Isaac.

  7. How much do you want to bet that it is one of the Agencies that the other little Russian babies/kids who heads were smashed in and left to fry in hot cars, were from E, huh? Very low class and insinuating how you blew E. Case off Troy…pathetic.

  8. According to my count, there are now 23 families who were perfect for their Russian children, while the children either ended up abused or dead. Can any one define the meaning of the word “perfect” for me?

  9. No repeaters?

    How about Tree of Life: Alex Pavlis, Liam Thompson and Daniel Peckenpaugh (the latter is “only” an abuse case).

    European Adoption Consultants: Logan Higginbotham and Chase Harrison.

    Or did you mean repeaters as in one family where repeatedly Russian children fall dead?

  10. Bad things happen to good people. A perfect fit does not mean that the parents were perfect people. No one is perfect, but this family was perfect for Isaac (and vice versa).

    Certainly unfathomable atrocities have happened in adoption cases. These atrocities naturally make a person react to cases that at first glance appear very similar. I applaud you all for caring and fighting for these children. They deserve that and much, much more. I only ask that you consider all the facts of each case before you judge someone you do not know.

  11. I limited Forever Family–Forever Dead to Russian/FSU adoptees who have been murdered, so that’s what I was responding to. In the larger context, Niels, you’re correct of course. I didn’t mean to sound like they weren’t involved in other atrocities, but I’m afraid it may have come across that way.

    Tree of Life placed both Liam and Daniel, (and who knows what other adoptees have been harmed by them) but Daniel wasn’t killed. Moreoever, he was Romanian. My records indicate that Alex Pavlis was an independent adoption. If Tree of Life ran interference for the Pavlis’s, I’ve seen nothing about it. Tree Life should be run out of business and their traffickers thrown in jail.

    EAC placed Logan and Chase, but Chase was left in a car to roast to death, not murdered. The most that will happen to Miles Harrision, I think, is negligent homicide.

    All of these agencies, of course, will walk.

  12. Mr. Vander Molen:

    The name of the agency is very important. I am hoping that, during Mr. Dykstra’s trial it is named and held accountable (like that happens).

    For far too long agencies have gotten away with bad adoption outcomes – for everybody in the triad. The only “due dilegence” they did for the Dykstra’s is cash their checks. If you read our website, you can see where I’m coming from. You’ll not get any “love” from us over I.A. agencies, esp those that place children from EE.

    Regarding Alex Pavlis. Yes, he and the girl the Pavlis adopted was an independent adoption. HOWEVER, Alex & the girl had originally been photolisted on Dove Adoptions photolisting. Dove was an agency out of Oregon. The Pavlis didn’t want to pay the high fees Dove was charging, so they decided to go “independent” to cut out Dove. I want to say they used a member of the infamous Ivan Jerdev’s family (Yunona Adoptions)in Russia.

    After Alex murder, there was an outcry from the American agencies about the horrors of independent adoptions. They tried to pin that on the Hilt’s adoption too (it being independent).

    I thought I’d forgotten all of that.

    Elizabeth Case

  13. Thanks Marley and Elizabeth, for correcting me on Alex Pavlis. I don’t know what got me to conclude he was adopted through ToL, probably nothing but confusion on my side. It’s hard to keep all those cases (176 by now) accurate

  14. 176 cases! Wowza! I need to go over to Pound Pup more often. I know what you mean about confusing. I had to go check Pavlis to see if I were confused. BTW, you’ve created a wonderful service over there. I know I owe you a couple emails. I’ll get to them in the next day or so.

  15. There’s a lot of naivette out there about international adoption. Unless you’ve been involved in it or have researched it a lot, it’s easy to see how it’s oh so altruistic. Agencies are not in the business for primarily benevolent reasons, and now that the bottom has fallen our (or the bubble burst?) they’re out of business or scampering back to the domestic fold.

    I’ll put up a more official announcement in the next few days, but E Case and I will be on Donna Montabano’s radio show on October 14 to discuss Russian adoptee abuse and deaths.

  16. I hadn’t heard of this case. UGH I’d like to hear the radio show. Will you have a link up?

    I’ve parented a child from EE and this is not an easy population to parent. It is completely unacceptable that agencies are not held accountable for their lack of screening of PAP’s, lack of educating them and providing any kind of support once they are home.

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