The parents of a 14-year-old Sedgwick County girl diagnosed by a doctor as a victim of child torture appeared in court Monday to face abuse charges.
The father faces three counts of child abuse, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated endangerment of a child, one count of criminal restraint and one count of criminal damage to property. The mother faces the same charges with the exception of criminal damage to property.
The Wichita Eagle has been following the case since April as part of its “In Need of Care” series examining child abuse and neglect in the community. The Eagle is not naming the parents because doing so would identify the girl and her three adoptive siblings, all of whom police placed in protective custody on March 28. Judge Tim Henderson gave The Eagle access to child-in-need-of-care petitions beginning in February with the understanding that The Eagle would not identify any children. The Eagle is following this case and others.
The father and mother, released from the Sedgwick County Jail on $150,000 bond each, answered brief questions from Sedgwick County District Judge Joe Kisner on Monday. The parents are accused of abusing the girl from the time she was 9. The parents took her in as a foster child and later adopted her after her biological mother neglected her, once leaving her in a crib for 16 hours.
Prosecutors accuse the adoptive parents of beating the girl – who weighed 66 pounds when police removed her from her home – with a foam hard-core bat and a broken curtain rod “whereby great bodily harm, disfigurement or death” could have been inflicted.
Child-in-need-of-care petitions filed on behalf of the girl and her siblings allege that the parents at times chained the girl in a windowless basement room with an alarm on the door and gave her a bucket to use as a toilet.
The beating with the bat allegedly occurred in the fall of 2012, and the beating with the curtain rod allegedly occurred this spring. Another child in the home told social workers the parents regularly beat the girl.
The parents have denied the allegations raised in the child-in-need-of-care cases.
Reports of child abuse and neglect to the Kansas Department for Children and Families have risen by 25 percent in Sedgwick County in five years, to 12,366 in the fiscal year that ended in June 2013. After an initial assessment by the DCF, just less than 60 percent of reports were assigned to local social workers for further review in fiscal year 2013.
The report that prompted the 14-year-old girl’s removal from her home this spring was the ninth time in a little more than five years that someone had voiced concerns about her welfare to the state.
The girl “reported she is chained to the bed when the bed is clean and she forgets to take a bath because her parents do not want her to get the bed dirty. (She) said she sleeps on the concrete floor when this happens but parents make sure that (she) has enough room to lie down,” according to the petition seeking an order of protection for her and the three other children.
On Monday, Kisner ordered the parents to have no contact with the children or any witnesses in the case.
“Your honor, one of the witnesses lives in my home,” the father advised Kisner, referring to an older child not named in the child-in-need-of-care cases.
Kisner told the father the family would need to make other living arrangements. The father then asked whether he could talk to the older child about needing to live elsewhere. Kisner agreed to let a grandparent do so.
The parents appeared in court May 16 in connection with the child-in-need-of-care cases and during that hearing asked to see the three other children placed in protective custody. There are no allegations the parents beat them.
But a social worker advised in court that the doctor who had diagnosed the girl as a victim of torture as well as investigators with the Exploited and Missing Child Unit recommended against visitation with the other children.
“There was severe neglect,” the social worker said. “(The doctor) diagnosed her with child torture. She doesn’t feel these parents would be appropriate with any children.”
Kisner scheduled a preliminary hearing for later this month in the criminal case. The parents also are scheduled to be in court later this month for a hearing in the child-in-need-of-care cases. A trial in those cases is scheduled to begin in August.