Woman who kept children as slaves in the USA pleads not guilty

Date: 2009-09-04

By Gemma Fox.
A British woman who allegedly kept three children as slaves in her US home has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. The charges include two counts of felony child abuse and three felony counts of involuntary servitude.

Sixty-three year old Mercedes Farquharson is alleged to have kept the three children on her property in North Carolina forcing them to work up to twenty hours a day or face being beaten. Farquharson allegedly went on the run for three years after the children were rescued in 2005.

Prosecutors in the case say that she kept the three girls at her North Carolina property and prevented them from going to school or even making friends. It's alleged that the girls were forced to clear up after dozens of animals including dogs, sheep and chickens and that they were forced to perform hard physical labour in harsh conditions. It's also alleged that one of the girls was as young as seven when the forced labour began.

Two of the girls were taken from their real mother in Southall, west London in the 1990s as she was having problems at the time with a difficult marriage. The other girl was Farquharson's own adopted daughter.

In 2005, authorities rescued the three girls were 15, 18 and 22 at the time, after neighbours complained of suspicious activity at Farquharson's property in Monroe, Union County, North Carolina.

In 2006 Farquharson was charged the two counts of felony child abuse and three felony accounts of involuntary servitude but at that point she had already allegedly fled.

Authorities investigating the case previously thought that she had fled to Spain but in July this year she was located and arrested in Bulgaria before being extradited to the USA to face the charges.

A federal court in North Carolina ordered Mercedes Farquharson to remain behind bars until her trial, a clerk of the court said.

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