Police gather evidence in case of locked-up children: Home searched for sticks used in alleged beating | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police gather evidence in case of locked-up children: Home searched for sticks used in alleged beating

F.T. Norton
Esther Rios

CARSON CITY – A 16-year-old girl allegedly held captive in a bathroom for years with her brother, told authorities her grandmother beat her with a stick and withheld food from her when the two children were caught talking in December, a court document states.

Esther Rios, 56, allegedly “beat (the girl) and deprived her from eating for one day because she was talking to her (brother),” according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant served Friday by the Carson City Sheriff’s Department. The girl had bruises on her body consistent with the stick she described, the document states.

The children’s mother Regina Rios, 33, stepfather Tomas Granados, 33, and Esther Rios are being held on suspicion of felony child abuse and false imprisonment. The trio allegedly kept the girl and her 11-year-old brother locked in the master-bedroom bathroom for about five years while three other siblings, ages 9, 12 and 17, appear to have been well fed and cared for in the family’s Como Street apartment.

Police videotape and photograph evidence

In the warrant, investigators asked to photograph and videotape the apartment and to search for a wooden stick or bat, clothing of a size and type fitting the alleged minor victims, keys fitting a deadbolt lock on the bathroom door, articles of bedding the girl described and paperwork pertaining to the victims.

Authorities were alerted to the situation on Thursday afternoon when the girl, who weighs only 41 pounds, allegedly escaped her confinement and was attempting to run away. She was pushing a Smith’s shopping cart she’d filled with clothing and food from her home.

After hearing her story, deputies went to the family’s apartment, and despite the adults’ protests that the girl was “crazy and lying,” discovered the 31-pound boy hidden under a bed.

“Deputies soon located (the boy) who appeared frightened and so malnourished that his bones were sticking out, his head seemed larger than his body and he appeared much smaller than his reported age,” the affidavit states.

The girl also said she’d hid one of her grandmother’s sticks, a hairbrush, scissors and a Gameboy in the bathroom vent and other sticks could be found behind the couch.

On Friday night, detectives carried out of the apartment several sticks and bags of evidence seized in the search.

“(The victim) told officers that she slept on the floor of the bathroom on a blanket and her brother slept in a cabinet under the sink,” the report states. Investigators said two blankets were found in that position when the home was entered Thursday.

The document also states the girl said she last attended school in third grade in Los Angeles. Investigators were unable to locate school records for the boy.

“The appearance of the children indicate that they have been deprived of adequate nutrition for prolonged periods of time. Both are emaciated,” Detective Dave Legros wrote in the court document.

Legros also stated in the document the reason investigators wanted to take the victims’ clothing was to “document the amount and character of victims’ clothing compared to the other children in the household, in order to corroborate their descriptions of being locked up inside for years without being allowed outside.”

All of the children are in the emergency custody of the state. The two victims have been admitted into Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

A preliminary hearing for the adults is set for Feb. 3. They are each being held on $100,000 bail. The charge of felony child abuse with substantial bodily harm carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison.

Escaping the bathroom

The family moved to Carson in 2000 from Los Angeles, Detective Dena Lacy said.

In 2001 the girl was reported as a runaway by her family.

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said it appears deputies found the girl and she was returned to her family. She never indicated she was being abused. The record from that incident describes her as 12 years old, 48 inches tall and weighing 85 pounds.

Investigators today wonder if that prompted the alleged confinement.

“This is the worst case of child neglect I’ve ever seen in my 15 years,” said Lt. Ken Sandage, one of the first officers on the scene. “I’ve been to autopsies. I’ve handled death investigations of children. Never in my years of police work have I seen anything this horrible.”

A record search Thursday revealed she never attended school in Carson City. Three healthy siblings who live in the apartment as well are all enrolled in Carson schools.

Records indicate the boy may have never attended school.

He’s talkative, but hard to understand because of a speech impediment. It seems only his sister can understand him, Sandage said.

The girl is talkative and brilliant, said Deputy Dan Gonzalez, one of two officers who found the girl on the curb.

“She is looking forward to the future,” he said. “She’s really an amazing girl.”

Detective Dena Lacy said that after the girl realized she wasn’t going back to the bathroom, she began to talk about the things she’d like.

“She wants a computer, video games and to see the movie ‘Harry Potter,'” Lacy said. “She’s never seen the movie, but she could hear it through the bathroom door.”

Lacy said that because of her confinement, the girl’s hearing is better than her eyesight. With that fine-tuned hearing, she also enjoyed listening to the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.”

Lt. Sandage said when he spoke to her she said, “I wanna be safe and I want a bed to sleep in.”

He said the boy asked for milk.

Heart wrenching

Members of the deputies association are arranging to open an education and medical fund for the children today.

Community members are expressing their outrage on the Nevada Appeal’s online message board.

Neighbors on the street are shocked.

“It’s heartbreaking someone would do that to children,” said Susan Doiel, as she stood holding her 6-month-old daughter. “Obviously those parents are sick. Very sick to do that to children.”

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