Comparing two children to Nazi death camp survivors, a judge on Friday bound over their grandmother, mother and the mother's boyfriend on charges that they abused the children for years by locking them up and starving them.
"Animals treat their children better than this," Justice of
the Peace Robey Willis said as he concluded a preliminary hearing
into what investigators and doctors have described as one of the
worst child abuse cases they've seen.
Willis added he was "totally disgusted" by the alleged abuse
by the grandmother, Esther Rios, 56, over a 5-year period and
failure of the children's mother, Regina Rios, or her boyfriend,
Tomas Granados, 33, to stop it.
The judge referred the case to District Court, where the three
will be arraigned in about three weeks, after Dr. Kathi Amrhein, a
pediatrician who treated the 16-year-old girl and her 11-year-old
brother, described how the children suffered possibly irreversible
health problems as a result of the deprivation.
The 4-foot-tall girl weighed about 40 pounds when she fled from
her home and was found by sheriff's deputies, thanks to a tip from
a woman who saw her on the street Jan. 19. Amrhein said the girl
has since put on 23 pounds and the 3½-foot-tall boy, who weighed 31
pounds, has added 12 pounds.
While the children have gained weight, the doctor said it
"would be a miracle" if the girl is able to get to near-normal
height even with growth hormone treatments. Amrhein added the boy's
legs and feet were deformed due to the prolonged confinement in a
bathroom in the family's apartment, and the girl was scarred from
beatings the girl said her grandmother gave her.
Besides the physical ailments, the doctor said the children have
emotional problems and big gaps in their education. The girl didn't
attend school after the third grade and the boy has never attended
school, she said.
In Jan. 19 interviews with Sheriff's Det. Dave LeGros, reviewed
in court on Friday, the grandmother stated the girl "was getting
everything she wanted" but had to be locked up with her brother
because both were overeating.
The children's mother also told LeGros the children ate too
much. She also said they hadn't been in school or to a doctor for
years, but denied the boy had been locked up.
In dramatic testimony last week, the girl described how her
grandmother beat her with a stick, starved her and her brother,
verbally abused her and let her out of the unheated bathroom only
to clean her family's apartment.
The girl added that she would throw up and then swallow her
vomit because it made her feel like she was getting more to eat.
While locked up, the girl said she and her brother subsisted
mainly on bologna sandwiches, hot dogs or hot cereal, and she went
without food for up to three days. She said she'd gulp water from a
sink but her brother, too short to reach the sink, would get water
from a dirty toilet.
The three defendants each face two counts of child neglect, two
counts of child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment. They
remain in the city jail in lieu of $100,000 bail apiece.
Three healthy children living in the home and leading outwardly
normal lives have been placed in the custody of the state.
Under state law, felony child abuse and child neglect carry a
penalty of two to 20 years each and felony false imprisonment
carries a penalty of one to 15 years.