Preliminary set for Fairview couple accused of abusing Liberian girl

Date: 2008-09-29
Source: enidnews.com

Okla. family accused of abusing Liberian girl

FAIRVIEW, Okla. (AP) — Members of a northern Oklahoma family who are accused of abusing a Liberian they adopted several years ago face a preliminary hearing on Nov. 13.

The Fairview couple was charged with child abuse last October. Their son was charged as a youthful offender with one count of rape by instrumentation, and their daughter faces a misdemeanor assault and battery count.

The couple adopted the girl and her four younger sisters in 2005 from a Liberian orphanage, said Linda Rous, who is a member of the local group Weep No More, which is trying to help the girls.

Prosecutors have alleged the couple tied the oldest girl to chairs and bedposts, denied her meals and forced her to sleep outdoors in the cold as punishment.

The brother is accused of sexually molesting her, and the sister allegedly hit the girl on the head with a wooden kitchen spoon, prosecutors said.

The Associated Press generally does not name those who say they were victims of sexual abuse, and often doesn’t use names of family members to avoid identifying the accusers.

“One of the main reasons for the case taking so long is they’ve been going to counseling to get evaluated and I wanted to see some of those results before we went to the sentencing phase,” Assistant District Attorney Tim Haworth said Monday.

“I’ve told the attorney that we’re not going to offer a plea bargain. Either we’re going to a preliminary hearing and then to trial or they’re going to enter a plea with the judge.”

The preliminary hearing originally was set for Sept. 11 but was continued to November, Haworth said. All four family members waived their rights to a speedy trial, according to court documents.

Haworth said he filed a motion Monday requesting that the judge impose an adult sentence on the 20-year-old son, even though he is charged as a youthful offender.

“He committed the crime when he was a juvenile but we didn’t find out about it until recently,” Haworth said.

A secretary for the family’s attorney, Norman Lamb, said Monday that Lamb had no comment.

The alleged abuse came to prosecutors’ attention through a case pending in family court, which Haworth declined to discuss, citing confidentiality laws.

The oldest girl no longer lives at the couple’s home, a relative of the Fairview couple said. The Department of Human Services would not say where the other girls were.

“In general, if there is a danger in the home, or a possible danger, DHS would do an investigation,” said Beth Scott, a spokeswoman for the department’s child welfare office. “If children are in imminent danger, they are removed from the home and placed in state custody.”

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