It was love at first sight when the Strohmeyers first met the 18-month-old boy they adopted and called Jeremy. The toddler developed into a bright, loving boy. "He wasn't torturing other kids or pulling bugs apart," recalls his mother, Winnie. But at 17, Jeremy became remote, his grades dropped and he began to drink. In 1997, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and given a prescription for the drug Dexedrene. Then, days later, he did the unthinkable: he lured a 7-year-old girl into the bathroom of a Nevada casino and killed her. "We know there were drugs and alcohol," says his father, John. "But how do you take the next step to do something so terrible?"
A year after Jeremy pleaded guilty (he received a life sentence), the Strohmeyers believe they found out. Closed adoption records revealed that Jeremy's mother was a schizophrenic with a history of mental illness. When they adopted him, they had specified on the application that they were willing to accept the child of a drug-addicted mother, but not a mentally ill one. "It was like being hit by a truck," John told NEWSWEEK. Jeremy himself was never diagnosed with mental illness. But the Strohmeyers have filed a claim against Los Angeles County, which handled the adoption, charging fraud, a move being closely watched by the adoption world. "The victim here is a little girl, not the Strohmeyers," counters a county spokesman. "And the perpetrator is Jeremy, not the social workers who did their best to find him a good home."