Hot-sauce wielding mom was on TV show to get help

Casey Grove
Frame grab of Jessica Beagley on the Dr. Phil show in November 2010.
Frame grab of Jessica Beagley on the Dr. Phil show in November 2010.

The Anchorage woman facing child-abuse charges after video of her punishing her 7-year-old aired on the "Dr. Phil" show had gone to that show to plead for help in changing the boy's behavior.

On Friday, Jessica Beagley pleaded not guilty through her attorney Friday at an arraignment in a packed basement courtroom in downtown Anchorage. She did not appear at the hearing.

The video Beagley sent to "Dr. Phil" -- now circulated on the Internet -- showed her punishing her adopted Russian son by putting hot sauce in his mouth and forcing him into a cold shower. It has drawn the ire of thousands across the U.S. and in Russia. Now Russian authorities are investigating.

The video, originally aired on the show during a November 2010 segment called "Mommy Confessions" and later posted online, shows her disciplining her adopted son by pouring hot sauce into his mouth and forcing him into a cold shower. Beagley's 10-year-old daughter shot the video, which the family sent to "Dr. Phil" producers hoping to get help with the boy's behavior, according to transcripts from the show.

The boy has a twin brother whom the Beagleys also adopted, but that child doesn't have the same problems as the boy in the video, Beagley tells Phil McGraw, the nationally televised licensed therapist. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to correct the child's behavior -- including timeouts, spankings, forced exercise and pulling his ear, she told McGraw -- Beagley turned to hot sauce and cold showers.

"I wish I wasn't to this point," Beagley tells McGraw. "I don't know what to do with this child."

"I'm going to tell you up front, there is no theory under which that (punishment) is going to work, there is no theory under which that makes sense," McGraw replies.

Beagley's husband, Gary, an Anchorage Police Department officer, didn't appear on the show, but a video he sent to the show gives insight about his involvement.

"The idea for hot sauce came from my wife talking to a friend of hers," Gary Beagley said in the transcripts. "In the military, we use cold showers for discipline, basically to get people's attention."

"Dr. Phil" declined to comment on the case or Beagley's appearance on the show.


The city prosecutor's office filed a misdemeanor count of child abuse this month based on the videos and police interviews with the family, according to court documents.

The case has gained international attention because nearly all adoptions from the Russian Federation to the United States have been on hold for more than a year as diplomats on both sides work to get Russia better oversight of the adopted kids, who maintain Russian citizenship. News reports of abuse inflicted on adopted Russian children have angered many in Russia, according to Russia's Commissioner of Children's Rights.

If Beagley is found guilty, there is "quite a big chance" that the twins would be sent back to Russia, according to Tony Astakhov, an assistant to Russia's Commissioner of Children's Rights.

A representative from the Russian Consulate in Seattle traveled to Anchorage to visit the Beagleys and monitor the case. Andrey Bondarev said he didn't see any reason to remove the boys from the Beagleys' home.

"From our perspective, there is no need for ejecting them from there," Bondarev said Friday.

"We hope that the court decision will reflect the truth," he said. "We will follow this to the end."

Bondarev said all of the six Beagley children looked well and that Beagley promised she would never again punish the boy with her previous extreme measures.


Still, Russia will be watching closely, he said.

Adding to the already crowded courtroom Friday were several TV news crews, including at least one from Russia's national media.

As they scanned the courtroom, the cameras seemed to unsettle some of those present, many of whom were charged with minor traffic offenses. At one point the cameras were trained on each other in a moment of dueling photographers shooting across the room.

The media attention was a bit of "overkill," said Peter Ramgren, a representative from the office of Beagley's attorney, William Ingaldson. Ramgren said he'd never seen that many cameras in an arraignment for misdemeanor city charges.

"It's pretty clear that none of this would be happening if it weren't for the 'Dr. Phil' show," Ramgren said, motioning to the multiple reporters interviewing him outside the courtroom.

Ramgren defended Beagley.

"She's a loving mother who cares very much for her child," Ramgren told the reporters. "One may not agree with her unorthodox techniques, but under the code, it doesn't rise to the level of child abuse."

Cynthia Franklin, the city prosecutor whose criminal complaint states that Beagley's techniques were unreasonable, was also in court. She spoke briefly after Ramgren entered Beagley's not-guilty plea.

"It's my experience that cases with video available to the public will generate lots of interest," Franklin said.


The Beagleys' video generated interest, entirely negative, at the taping of "Dr. Phil," as evidenced by the several women who castigate Beagley.

"It's just frustration," Beagley tells McGraw and the audience. "I really, I don't know what to do with him. I really, truly don't, and that's why I wrote to you, that's why I'm willing to sit up here and have an audience look at me and judge me because I need help for this child. I need help for me, but I know I need help for this child."

McGraw later tells Beagley the show will provide evaluations for the boy and anger counseling for Beagley. It's unclear if that was ever provided because the show refused to comment for this story.

Beagley's next court date is March 21.