Defense Questions Alleged Slave's Story

Relates to:
Date: 2001-08-15

Lawyers Argue African Teen's Conditions Not Bad

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich.-- Defense lawyers in the trial of a Farmington Hills, Mich., couple said that the young girl from Africa they're accused of keeping as a slave actually lived like most teenage girls.

Joseph and Evelyn Djoumessi are accused of bringing Pradine Fru to the United States in 1996 and promising her an education. Police and prosecutors said that instead, the couple beat her and used her as their nanny.

Fru, 18, testified Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court that she was forced to live in the couple's basement and was threatened with being returned to Africa if she told anyone about the alleged mistreatment.

Defense attorneys painted a different picture Wednesday. They got Fru to testify that she was free to leave the basement and go into other parts of the suburban Detroit home.

The teen was also asked whether she would refer to the basement in which she lived as a dungeon and she said that it was not. The family used the basement to entertain and as a play area for the children, lawyers said.

Joseph Djoumessi, 44, is charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap, two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree criminal sexual conduct and child abuse. Evelyn Djoumessi, 36, is charged with kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap.

Fru currently lives in a foster home and will be a senior in high school this fall. She also has been given her green card, which allows her to live in the United States.

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