By Julia Urquizo
RIVERSIDE, CA – The jury trial of a couple reconvened Thursday here in Riverside County Superior Court, with the prosecution imploring during closing argument that the jurors find the couple guilty of willful child cruelty and torture.
NOTE: The Vanguard will not identify the couple to protect the identity of juveniles.
Within the last several weeks, three child victims gave their testimonies, describing what it was like living with the couple up until the couple’s arrest in January 2018.
The victims were nine and ten years old when they decided to squeeze through the metal bars of a window to run away and get help for their six-year-old brother who was severely sick. Among the witnesses that came in to testify were doctors, the victims’ stepsister, and school faculty that recounted the victims’ behavior and physical health during the time they suffered the alleged abuse.
Deputy District Attorney Gary Polk asked the jury to find the couple guilty of child torture with the intent to inflict great bodily injury or cause extreme pain for any sadistic purpose. The female defendant may also be found guilty for aiding and abetting.
DA Polk’s argument is based on the children’s corroborating testimonies that they were deprived of water and forced to eat sandwiches filled with only olives, onions, and tomatoes within a certain time limit. A victim who was only 10 years old at the time recalled when she regurgitated the sandwiches she was forced to eat her own vomit on a plate with a spoon.
Another example voiced by the young witnesses was having to see her six-year-old dehydrated brother drink water from the toilet, only when he was given permission from the male defendant.
Meanwhile, the female defendant would buy groceries and cook regular food inside the same house, food that the three children were never allowed to touch. Instead, the female victims had to steal sips of water from the shower or faucet while the defendants were unaware—otherwise they would receive cruel punishments.
One of them recalled the eldest victim had to stand outside all night with no blankets on two occasions. Additionally, the couple would not allow any of the three victims to use the restroom, causing them to end up peeing on themselves. As a result, they would answer to a severe beating with a belt.
The teachers from the victims’ school testified to never seeing the girls make eye contact, staying to themselves, and not making any friends. DA Polk restated a teacher’s comment about the victims’ presence after the couple’s arrest in 2018, saying that “they no longer had clouds over their heads.”
Some of the most compelling testimonies came from the doctors who cared for the six-year-old victim in January 2018.
The doctor described the victim’s condition as severely underweight by 35 pounds, marking him below the half percentile in terms of size for six-year-old males. The victim had an enlarged liver with elevated enzymes, which were indicative of malnutrition and dehydration. Furthermore, when the victim arrived at the hospital in January 2018 he had to stay on intravenous drip for five days.
The victims’ stepsister mentioned during her testimony that she would go to bible study to avoid the environment at home. Whenever she would question the defendants about the victims’ treatment they would simply answer that they were misbehaving.
The stepsister took part in making the sandwiches and depriving the victims of water, but when it came to describing the six-year-old’s condition she broke down. During a forensic interview, when asked about what justified the brutal treatment of the victims, the witness could come up with no answer other than that it was because they would pee on themselves.
The witness was 17 years old when she called the female defendant about the six-year-old being unable to walk. Neither of the defendants did anything to help.
DA Polk closed his argument saying, “Their innocence was torn away prematurely when those kids were forced to eat and experience things they never should have. When a 10-year-old girl has to run away from home, the only home she’s ever known, and somehow in her little mind that’s how she could save herself and her little brother. Their childhood is not what it should’ve been or could have been.”
The jury trial will reconvene on Nov. 5.