Girl tells stories of alleged abuse
Testimony in preliminary hearing against grandmother, mother and stepfather to resume
February 25, 2006
Feb 5 2011
Testimony in preliminary hearing against grandmother, mother and stepfather to resume
February 25, 2006
http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/20060225/NEWS/102250061Buoyed by a courage few will ever need, a tiny 16-year-old girl took the stand in a Carson City courtroom Friday to tell the stories of her and her brother's alleged torture at the hands of their grandmother, their mother's failed attempts at intervention and their stepfather's indifference.
Looking healthier than she did when she was found a month ago weighing 41 pounds, the immaculately dressed girl spent nearly three hours telling her story Ã composed, articulate and detailed Ã as her alleged captors, Esther Rios, 56, Regina Rios, 33, and Tomas Granados, 33, sat some 20 feet away in shackles and jail-house garb.
The three are each charged with two counts of child abuse causing substantial bodily harm, alternate charges of child neglect causing substantial bodily harm and two counts of false imprisonment.
The 4-foot-tall girl said, "the grandmother," was her warden.
She said she and her brother were fed "bologna, weenies and hot cereal."
But the food was never consistent and "the grandmother" often pitted the two children against each other.
"I would tell on (my brother) to try to get more food out of her or he would get on her good side to try to do the same."
She described being locked in the bathroom for good in 2001 after she ran away and how her brother was sentenced to the same fate sometime later when he tried to help her by sneaking her food.
"Who put him in there?" prosecutor Anne Langer asked.
"The grandmother," the girl said.
She said Esther Rios taunted her with food.
"She would tell me to stand in front of her and she would tease me with food," while she ate, she said.
"She would give (my brother) better food just to tease me."
"The grandmother would get up and follow me wherever I cleaned. Sometimes she would have a stick and tell me to hurry up. If I was too slow she would hit me."
"(Grandmother) would just say she hates me and she wishes to kill me," she said. "She told me the day I die she was going to cut me into little pieces."
In her hunger, she recalled, she resorted to eating paper or paint and every day, several times a day, she would regurgitate what she'd already eaten so she could eat it again.
"It just happened because of starvation," she explained during Defense Attorney Tom Susich's questioning. "I did it on purpose to get more food. I thought I could get more food that way"
"Do you recall when that started?" Susich asked.
"When I started being hungry," she said.
She said she was allowed to drink water from the sink, but since her brother was only 43 inches tall, he had to find other means.
"(He) would get from the toilet because there was no cup, and he was too short to get from the sink," she said.
She also said she and her brother were forbidden from talking.
"What would happen if you did talk," Langer asked.
"I would miss a meal, get less food, or get hit with a stick," she said.
And she told of begging to be fed after no food for three days, recalling a day in December, a month before she was discovered, when the beatings went too far.
"I was begging on my knees and she was hitting me with her black boots and (my brother) told me I blacked out when she was hitting me," she said.
She often cried from the intense hunger pangs, she said, which caused more problems.
"(Grandmother) does not like crying at all, so she just keeps hitting until you stop crying."
Throughout Friday's testimony, Regina Rios fought back tears or openly sobbed. At times, Esther Rios would react to the testimony, sometimes scoffing and other times looking confused.
During cross-examination by Esther Rios' attorney Ben Walker, Walker took a moment to look through his notes. As the girl watched him from the stand, her eyes wandered over to her mother, who with shackled hands was dabbing her eyes. The child stared for a moment, then looked down. She turned to her adult companion sitting nearby and said something. The companion appeared to reassure the girl, tenderly touching her and offering hushed words. The girl looked down into her lap again, then wiped her eyes with her hands. A bailiff walked across the courtroom and laid tissue in front of her.
He showed no emotion, other than strength, she displayed during the proceedings.
She said her mother was always kind to her, smiling at her and waving. Once, she said, her mom brought her a book and a pencil.
"The grandmother wouldn't allow that," the girl recalled.
Another time when Esther Rios went out of town, Regina Rios freed the children from their confines during the day, the girl said.
"She let me out into the grandmother's room, giving me really good food like pancakes, sausage, bacon and cookies."
When Esther Rios returned, Regina Rios laid down the law, the girl recalled.
"My mom told the grandmother there was going to be a change. 'They are going to eat right, twice a day,'" she said. "It lasted for a while, until the grandmother got her way."
Through it all, she said, Granados never intervened. She said he put the deadbolt on the bathroom door, threatened to beat her with a belt for "stealing food" and told on her when she did.
Also testifying Friday was psychologist Gregory Giron, who said the children faced "an extreme level of deprivation" at the hands of the adults.
Giron said the prognosis for the children is "guarded." He said they're in much better health after a month of hospital care, have teachers and like the idea of schooling - "but they just don't have a concept of it," and may never be able to attend public schools.
Dr. Todd Gray, a pediatric dentist, said the girl's regurgitation of her food caused many of her teeth to rot. Gray added that without costly dental work, estimated at $50,000, the girl's teeth will have to be pulled.
Investigators said the girl had not attended school since her family moved to Carson City from Los Angeles in about 2000. Her brother also had not been enrolled in school here.
On Jan. 19, police were called by a state worker, Sarah Koerner, after she spotted what looked like a small boy pushing a shopping cart on a street. When sheriff's deputies arrived, the girl told them she had just escaped from her home. Officers went to the apartment and found the boy hidden under a bed.
Three healthy children living in the home and leading outwardly normal lives have been placed in the custody of the state.
After nearly a month in the hospital, the two victims have been placed with a foster family together in Carson City.
Esther Rios talks with her lawyer during a preliminary hearing Friday. Rios, her daughter Regina Rios, at rear, and her daughter's husband, Tomas Granados, have all been charged with felony child abuse, child neglect and false imprisonment for allegedly locking Regina Rios' 16-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son in the bathroom and starving them for several years.
Court officials bring Tomas Granados into a preliminary hearing
Feb 5 2011
http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/9042052b148648aabf5d91841ad1c7b7/NV--Jasmines_Freedom/CARSON CITY, Nev. â€” It's been five years since Jasmine Perez was discovered pushing a shopping cart full of food and clothes down Carson City streets. A passer-by called police to report a 6-year-old child wandering unsupervised.
What police discovered was much more horrifying.
Jasmine â€” just 4 feet tall, weighing 41 pounds â€” told them she was 16. She and her 11-year-old brother, David, had been held captive in the bathroom of the family's Como Street apartment for years, starved and tortured at the hands of their grandmother, Esther Rios.
Wha started as a punishment of an hour or two in the bathroom turned into six years of imprisonment while the rest of the family â€” Rios, the children's mother Regina Rios and her husband, and three other siblings â€” lived a relatively normal life in the apartment.
Then on Jan. 19, 2006, Jasmine had a dream.
"It sounds crazy," she said, looking back on that day. "It's hard to believe myself."
In the dream, she saw her grandmother coming home from work early, giving Jasmine the opportunity to get away without her mother or siblings home to stop her.
Rios did come home from work early that day. She sent Jasmine and David to wait in the bedroom while she used the bathroom. At first Jasmine dismissed the dream, but as her grandmother lingered in the bathroom, Jasmine realized it was her time to act.
She slammed the door and turned the deadbolt that had been installed on the outside of the door.
ith her grandma shrieking threats and insults from inside the bathroom and David begging her not to go, Jasmine grabbed as much food, clothing and money as she could and fled.
"My plan was to live on my own and just be free," she said.
Looking back, she knows it could have backfired. Years of being locked away left her with limited lung capacity, making breathing difficult. Spending most of her days on the bathroom floor, coupled with beatings to her legs, had atrophied her muscles, and she could barely walk.
She also risked the chance that no one would stop to help. Out of all the cars that drove past her that day, only one person called police.
Then there was her grandmother. In first grade, Jasmine told her teacher she was being abused. She had run away before. Both times, Rios convinced authorities that Jasmine was mentally handicapped and prone to lies.
But she was successful that day.
"I think God was on my side," she said. "He kept his eyes on me and his hands underneath me."
After police found her in a parking lot near the community center, they drove her home, where Rios again told police that Jasmine was delusional and anorexic.
But then 11-year-old David, who at 36 pounds was the size of an average 3-year-old, was discovered hiding under a bed.Jasmine said Deputy Daniel Gonzales dropped to his knee in front of her. Taking her hand, he told her he was sorry for what she had been through.
"He said, 'I don't even know you, but I love you.'"
It was the first time anyone other than David had ever told her that, she said.
"That's when the love started," she said.
That day marked the end of captivity for Jasmine and David, who has since moved to California to live with his father.
He called Jasmine last week.
"He said, 'Happy anniversary, Jasmine,'" she said. "'You saved my life.'"
But freedom has taken some time to find.
There was an outpouring of support and donations from the community, but Jasmine didn't know how to handle it.
"When I learned there was so much attention focused on us, it was really overwhelming," she said. "I knew someone was going to hurt me."
And she worried for those offering help. From police to counselors to social workers and foster parents, she feared they would be punished for their compassion toward her.
"I thought, 'My grandma is going to come kill you.' But they never gave up."
She admits she and David were difficult to deal with. She hoarded food and lied about it. She lashed out. They both threw things. She ran away.
David and Jasmine went through several foster families, and she continued to have nightmares of her grandmother coming back for her.
But there were those who stuck with her and she started to open up.
"It's a struggle," Jasmine said. "I was told you're ugly, you're evil, and I believed it for so long. I think I've had to learn to accept myself and love myself."
Five years after her escape, her appearance now masks her tragic past.
She's a normal height, 5 feet 4 inches. David, she said, is taller.
Her teeth, damaged from years of malnutrition and regurgitating what little food she had to eat, were fixed by local dentist Dr. Jonathan Bauter.
Physical therapy and corrective surgery restored her ability to walk, and she even plays sports.
She wears her tenacious spirit with a skull belt buckle, green faux hawk and silver studs in her bottom lip. Her smile is clear and wide, but her soft brown eyes betray vulnerability.
Fixing the inside, Jasmine said, has required even more work.
"It's just like being in a coma," she said of those six years with no education, no stimulation from TV, books or friends. "I went in at 10 years old. Found at 16, but still 10."
She'd attended second grade before her family moved from California, but was never enrolled in school in Carson City.
At 17, she entered the fourth grade at Fritsch Elementary School.
"M friends say you must have been so out of place there, so much bigger," she said. "But I was one of the smallest in my class."
At 21, she's now a senior in high school with plans to pursue a career in teaching after graduation. Her goals are to find a job and buy a car.
"I'm doing well," she said. "I've never given up, and I don't plan on giving up anytime soon."
She visited her mother, Regina Rios, a few times in prison, where she is serving 22 to 55 years on two counts of child abuse and one count of false imprisonment.
But when her mother tried to relay a message to her from Esther Rios, who received 28 to 70 years in prison on two counts of child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment, Jasmine stopped visiting.
"I really didn't want to know what my grandma had to say," she said.
Her mother's husband, Tomas Granados, was sentenced to 14 to 35 years for child abuse and false imprisonment.
Looking back, Jasmine is sometimes awed that she lived through it all.
But, she said, she holds no anger or hatred for her abusers. Instead, her focus is on enjoying the life she fought to preserve.