Adoptive mom beat girls with cord, bat, twins say
"It was almost every day that she hit us because she hates us," one of the girls said of Tamika Shuntell Williams of Warren.
Williams, 30, faces two counts each of torture and first-degree child abuse for what law enforcement officials have described as one of the worst abuse cases they have handled.
Her adopted and physically scarred daughters, who were removed from their home by child welfare officials, separately detailed during Williams' preliminary examination in 37th District Court how they allegedly were abused. In soft, quiet voices, the girls said they feared her.
Both said Williams often struck them on their back, arms and head with a device that features a spring and is used for exercising abdominal muscles. The sisters described how one girl was tied to a bedroom door with her hands above her head and that the sister was bound to a bed.
They calmly explained other allegations: burns caused by cigarettes and a lighter; being struck with a belt; and having bleach poured into their bath so they wouldn't stink when they got out.
"She would bite us ... on the head," one of the 8-year-olds said.
The Macomb Daily is not publishing the names of the girls.
Asked by Macomb County assistant prosecutor Jennifer Andary why they did not tell anyone about the alleged abuse, both sisters said they feared greater harm.
"She said if we would tell anyone her business she would stab us," one girl said. Her sister testified Williams threatened to remove the twins from the home or "take us to the police station."
The twins said the adoptive mother showed them a photograph of a dead male -- one described him as an older boy and her sister claimed it was a headless corpse with the man's head placed on his chest -- and that she threatened to do the same to them.
Williams often shook her head in disbelief while listening to the testimony.
The defense did not call any witnesses during the proceeding, a probable-cause hearing to determine whether a crime was committed and if the evidence shows a defendant possibly committed the alleged illegal acts.
Judge Dawnn Gruenburg ordered Williams to stand trial in Macomb County Circuit Court. The Warren woman remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bond.
Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Ronald Goldstein said his client maintains her innocence.
"Wait for the trial," he told reporters. "We've got a lot of investigative work to do."
During a court hearing in December, the twins appeared afraid and were unable to testify. On Tuesday, Gruenburg prohibited any of Williams' relatives from sitting in the courtroom during the girls' testimony.
Andary, chief of the domestic violence unit at the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office, commended the twins for their bravery and accused Williams of "systematically" torturing them.
"Her conduct was brutal. It was inhumane," she said. "Instead of experiencing joy and laughter that 8-year-old girls experience every day, they had to experience anxiety and fear."
Williams' parents, Mitchell and Rose Lesuer, have described their daughter as a loving, single mom who adopted the girls on the day after Easter in 2005 because a medical condition prevents her from bearing children.
The abuse allegations came to light when the girls' former teachers at Warrendale Elementary School noticed marks on their arms. The girls have been placed in foster care and a different school.
The torture charge is one of the first of its kind filed in Michigan under a new state law that went into effect last spring. Punishable by up to life in prison, the offense is defined as inflicting great bodily injury or severe mental pain or suffering with the intent to cause "cruel or extreme physical or mental pain and suffering."