Teenager Cathy Rainbolt told a judge her foster father hit her in the face when she failed to mow the lawn correctly. She got hit in the face when she argued. She got hit and dragged by the hair when she tried to get away.
Her foster father was James “Tom” Hodgkinson, who is now infamous after shooting U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, two U.S. Capitol Police officers and a staffer on a Virginia ballfield Wednesday. Rainbolt told the judge that Hodgkinson drank every day.
“I didn’t mark a time when (Hodgkinson) started hitting me,” Rainbolt told St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Radcliffe during a hearing Nov. 21, 2006. “It’s been hard to live with (an alcoholic) and how (he) treated me,” Rainbolt said.
The transcript of the hearing was unsealed, along with the rest of Rainbolt’s juvenile file, after a request by the Belleville News-Democrat was granted by Circuit Judge Jan Fiss on Friday afternoon. Rainbolt died in 2015 of a drug overdose after a life “mixed with human suffering and laughter,” her obit read.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Hodgkinson was killed Wednesday by police to halt his shooting spree. Sue Hodgkinson has been under police protection and could not be reached Friday. She granted an interview Thursday and then asked the media to leave her alone.
Rainbolt was asked at the hearing whether she had been abused in any other way.
“There was no sexual abuse or anything like that. It was emotional and verbal abuse,” she answered.
It’s been hard to live with (an alcoholic) and how (he) treated me.
Illinois Department of Childen and Family Services spokeswoman Veronica Resa confirmed the Hodgkinsons were foster parents from 1990 to 2003. She declined to answer further questions, citing privacy laws.
Rachele Putnam, Rainbolt’s biological mother, lost custody of her and her two sisters in 1995 when Cathy was 6. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services placed Cathy in Don Bosco Children’s Home in Belleville after determining her mother’s boyfriend sexually abused her 9- and 8-year-old sisters.
DCFS also found that Cathy’s biological father, Michael Putnam, sexually abused the girls, as well as their paternal grandfather.
Cathy was placed in a foster home, attended counseling and made monthly visits to her father in prison.
Around 2002, the 13-year-old went to live with the Hodgkinsons. She took their last name and became Cathy Hodgkinson. The Hodgkinsons opted not to adopt Cathy, but instead chose a “subsidized guardianship” for their grand-niece.
Every year they would file annual reports to the court, noting expenses made for Cathy such as $112.65 for her surprise 16th birthday party or $105 for the Apple iPod she received as a birthday present or the $104 for a backpack and school supplies.
Cathy found a friend, who lived next door to the Hodgkinsons — Janae Rainbolt. At Janae’s home Cathy found a refuge and a family.
“Well, I went to the Hodgkinsons’ as soon as they were my foster family. (Janae Rainbolt) and I became best friends, inseparable, we did everything together, homework and everything and I grew up with her. I spent every single day at her house in the summer. We camped outside. And (went) out to eat and shopping,” Rainbolt told the judge.
On April 1, 2006, James Hodgkinson forced his way into his neighbor’s home, according to a police report.
“Once inside the residence, James started screaming for (Cathy),” the report stated.
He told her it was time to come home, but Cathy wanted to stay. She went upstairs and locked herself in a bedroom. Hodgkinson followed her up, cursing and shouting, the report stated. Cathy hid next to the bed on the floor.
Hodgkinson again demanded Cathy return home. She said no.
“James grabbed (Cathy) by the hair and pulled her off the floor. After Cathy was off the floor, she attempted to run away. James would not release his grip and threw Cathy to the floor,” the report stated.
One of the girls’ friends, Aimee Moreland, 19, heard screaming and saw Hodgkinson throwing Cathy around the bedroom. She told police he was hitting Cathy, pulling her hair and grabbing her.
The two girls fled to Moreland’s car and tried to leave, but Hodgkinson pulled open the passenger side door and tried to pull Cathy out, the report said. He reached over and pulled the keys out of the ignition, pulled out a knife and cut the seat belt.
Sue Hodgkinson came to the car and began fighting with Cathy, hitting her and pulling her hair and trying to pull her out of Moreland’s car. She finally gave up and said, “I’ll just call the police and put you back into foster care,” the report stated.
It was then that James Hodgkinson began grabbing Cathy again, choking her, tearing her Belleville West sweatshirt. Moreland tried to intervene and was hit in the face.
I’ll just call the police and put you back into foster care.
Joel Fernandez, Moreland’s 19-year-old boyfriend, went to confront the Hodgkinsons and told police he was met by James Hodgkinson pointing a 12-gauge shotgun in his face. He told police a shot was fired as he ran away. Police investigating the case found a spent shotgun shell near Hodgkinson’s front porch.
Hodgkinson was charged with battery, but the case was dropped when witnesses did not appear.
That was the last day Cathy stayed with the Hodgkinsons.
Cathy’s adopted sister, Julie Simpson, picked her up from the sheriff’s department that night. She went to a foster home in Cahokia soon after.
Julie Simpson and the Hodgkinsons were featured in a foster family newsletter in 2004. Julie Simpson described the Hodgkinsons as a loving family that calmed a nervous 13-year-old who broke dishes and how James Hodgkinson left the hospital to attend her wedding and then adopted her when she was 24, so she’d always have a family.
But Cathy’s placement in Cahokia didn’t work out. Cathy was only allowed to eat after the family was finished. There were cockroaches in the cereal. Her foster father “tickled” her and commented on her figure.
And soon, Cathy was back at Janae Rainbolt’s house with her mother, Nicki Stieren, agreeing to be Cathy’s guardian, according to the court records.
Cathy asked Judge Radcliffe to change her name from Hodgkinson to Rainbolt.
“You guys want to be sisters, in other words. You guys want to have the same last name,” Radcliffe asked.
Cathy said “yes” and became Cathy Rainbolt.
Tension remained between the neighbors. Nicki Stieren called the police to report Hodgkinson ran over her dog, which was sleeping in the driveway six weeks after Hodgkinson tried to pull Cathy out of her house.
Less than four weeks later, the Hodgkinsons filed their final report as Cathy’s guardians. It was the day after Christmas 2006 and the day before Cathy’s 17th birthday.
In that report, they detailed the expenses incurred on her behalf, including legal fees, intermediate foster care, damage done to the front lawn and $300 to repair a hole kicked in her bedroom wall.
“ ... in addition to the lost work time we incurred for counseling, court dates, incarcerations and medical expenses for the stress the rest of the family was put through while (the girl) manipulated her way through the system,” James and Suzanne Hodgkinson wrote.
Stieren taught Cathy to drive, bought her a car, but Stieren said in Cathy’s obit that the two never formed a mother-daughter bond. Cathy Rainbolt was emancipated when she was 18. She didn’t want to follow the rules and keep up with chores at the Stieren house.
“All I can say is that I have tried and will keep being a source of moral support for this daughter of mine. It feels like failure but maybe someday she will understand,” Nicki Stieren wrote in a letter to the judge.
As an adult, Cathy Rainbolt developed a drug problem, according to her obituary. She had a son. In 2011, she once again fell prey to a sexual attack at the hands of her biological father, who was sentenced to five years on criminal sexual abuse charges.
On July 26, 2015, Cathy Rainbolt died of a heroin overdose. She was 25.
“Foster care is supposed to be foster parenting,” Nicki Stieren wrote in Cathy’s obituary. “Parenting is supporting the physical, emotional, social, financial and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Foster care is not supposed to be belittling. The child is not supposed to be your free worker bee.”
Cathy was the first of two Hodgkinson foster children to die young. In 1996, 17-year-old Wanda Ashley Stock, who had been living with the Hodgkinsons in Belleville for just three months, drove to a lonely rural road, doused herself with gasoline and set herself on fire.
St. Clair County Deputy Coroner Danny Haskenhoff said he will never never forget seeing smoke on the horizon over Mine Haul Road not far from Smithton.
Haskenhoff said that when he arrived, the car Stock drove was surrounded by firefighters and county deputies. Told there was a body in the car, he said at first he didn’t believe it.
“I said, ‘Oh, bullshit,’” and then I realized. “Ah, there’s a body in the car.”
“It was determined to be a suicide, and we typically don’t autopsy suicide,” Haskenhoff said. A police report could not be located Friday.
At the time, Suzanne Hodgkinson said the teenager’s death was a complete surprise. Hodgkinson passed her foster daughter in the car and was quoted by a News-Democrat reporter as saying, “She didn’t pull out of the driveway in a frenzy. She drove at a normal pace. There was no indication that there was anything wrong.”
Haskenhoff said one odd detail he recalled is that two gas cans were found some distance back from the section of road where the flaming car was found.
According to the BND article, Stock left a note with instructions to leave whatever valuables she had to a friend. Her license place was “Jeff Ashe,” a reference to her boyfriend, which police used to identify her and discover her home.
It was a break-up with that boyfriend that prompted the suicide, Sue Hodgkinson said in a News-Democrat story about suicide prevention. She encouraged other parents to keep a close eye on emotional children, who take things hard.
Nicki Stieren wrote an emotional ode in Cathy’s obituary that was also a plea for other foster children.
“To all you children in foster care, seek out those good teachers and counselors at your school, find friends to encourage you and please find your passion. Don’t waste your life and don’t let Cathy’s death be in vain. Chances are most everyone needs help. Go and get yours.”
Chances are most everyone needs help. Go and get yours.