California prosecutors say kids were shot with crossbows, waterboarded
WARNING: This story contains disturbing descriptions of abuse
The parents of 10 children rescued from what California authorities call years-long abuse are both in jail after their mother was taken into custody Wednesday and her bail set at nearly $500,000 to reflect the seriousness of the charges.
Prosecutors charged Ina Rogers, 31, in Solano Superior Court with nine counts of felony child abuse, saying she caused the children to be in a situation likely to produce great bodily injury and death. Rogers did not enter a plea, but has previously denied allegations her children were harmed.
Her husband, Jonathan Allen, faces multiple charges of torture and felony child abuse. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in Solano County Jail on $5.2 million bail.
Judge William J. Pendergast agreed with the deputy district attorney's request to set bail at $495,000 US, saying Rogers "may not be a danger to the public at large, but these charges make clear she is a danger to the children."
Allen also denies the allegations. An attorney who represented Rogers in court Wednesday declined to comment after the hearing.
"On a continuous basis the children were getting punched, strangled, bitten, shot with weapons such as crossbows and BB guns, hit with weapons such as sticks and bats, subjected to 'waterboarding' and having scalding water poured on them," Solano County deputy district attorney Veronica Juarez wrote.
It's unclear whether any California government agencies had an opportunity to intervene sooner or knew of the turmoil in the household.
Solano County court records show that Allen was charged with four felonies in 2011, including corporal injury, assault with a firearm and criminal threats in a case involving his wife, identified by her initials, I.R.
Prosecutors alleged Allen used a .22-calibre revolver in some of the crimes.
He pleaded no contest to corporal injury as part of a deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced to 180 days and three years of probation. Prosecutors dropped the other charges.
Previous child welfare interaction
Rogers told reporters that she had one prior interaction with child welfare officials when her mother "had mentioned something" that prompted a home visit. Officials took pictures of the children and interviewed them individually, she said.
"Nothing was founded, my kids were placed back with me," she said.
Solano County's child welfare services department officials did not respond to requests for details about the visit or other interactions they may have had with members of the household.
Rogers says she home-schooled the children, but the two-storey Fairfield, Calif., home was not registered as a private school and neither were three prior addresses where the family lived in Fairfield and Vallejo, according to the California Department of Education.
California law requires children to be enrolled in public school unless they meet specific exemptions, such as documented attendance at a private school. Parents who teach their own children are required to register with the state, but the state does not approve, monitor or inspect them.
The Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District had no record that the students attended any school in the district, said Tim Goree, a district spokesperson.
Sheriff's officials and prosecutors say the children were rescued from a filthy house March 31 and had suffered puncture wounds, burns, bruising and injuries consistent with being shot with a pellet gun. Sharon Henry, the county's chief deputy district attorney, said they were tortured "for sadistic purposes."
Police responding to a missing juvenile report found a home filled with rotted food and human and animal waste, Fairfield Lt. Greg Hurlbut said. Police removed the children, ages four months to 12 years, and arrested Rogers on suspicion of neglect. She was released after posting $10,000 bail.
Stories about the alleged abuse came out gradually in interviews with the children over the past six weeks, and eight of the children told professionals about incidents dating back several years, authorities said.
On Wednesday, Solano County's deputy district attorney condemned Rogers.
"Instead of taking care of them, she has abused them, if not assisting her husband in torture," Juarez said.
Rogers was taken into custody after the hearing. Her court-appointed attorney, Barry Newman, declined comment.
Allen, 29, was arrested Friday and faces seven counts of torture and nine counts of felony child abuse. Allen denied the allegations in an interview with KCRA-TV on Tuesday, declaring "I am not an animal."
At least one person suspected abuse: the children's maternal grandmother. She called Allen a monster.
"He would take the baby and slap it in the face and put duct tape on the baby's mouth to make it shut up," Wanda Rogers told KNTV in San Francisco.
Fairfield is a suburb about 75 kilometres northeast of San Francisco.