Husband charged in failing to stop abuse

Date: 2014-11-08

By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Washington County man was arraigned Friday on charges that he failed to intervene when his wife beat and assaulted their adopted daughter, disguising abuse as discipline and forcing her to eat cat litter and toilet residue as punishment.

Richard Cooper, 51, of Cross Creek appeared before District Judge Gary Havelka on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. He was released on $10,000 bond.

During the same time, his wife, Rana Cooper, appeared before Judge Havelka, and was held for court on charges that she tried to gouge out her daughter’s eyes and attempted to sew the child’s mouth shut. Police also have accused her of choking the girl until she blacked out and sitting on her so she couldn’t breathe.

Ms. Cooper, 46, also of Cross Creek, was charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, simple assault, and reckless endangerment. She was released on $100,000 bond. Her trial date has not yet been set.

The now-16-year-old girl had been abused for at least the past four years, police said. She was adopted at the age of 7 or 8.

In an affidavit, Pennsylvania State Police outlined a list of additional accusations against Ms. Cooper, including that she inserted Q-tips in her daughter’s ears until they bled, force fed the girl until she vomited and struck her in the face with a belt buckle.

Police said the couple failed to seek medical care for the girl after her body was covered with bites she received from the family dog, and prevented her from eating, drinking or using the bathroom until she earned “points” for cleaning the house.

Ms. Cooper forced her to eat cat litter, police said, and to ingest the residue from the toilet rim.

The girl had witnesses to back up her “incredible” claims, deputy district attorney Traci McDonald said.

“Police were able to locate witnesses and evidence that corroborate most, if not all of the claims made by this child,” Ms. McDonald said.

“This is a tragic case of child abuse, where the people charged with caring and protecting this child were the very people who caused her harm,” Ms. McDonald said.

“The sad part is that this child continues to love her abuser, even though she recognizes, to some degree, that she was hurt. She was conditioned to believe that her role in the household was subservient to the others living in the home and accepted practices that most would consider inhumane as ordinary discipline.”

There were seven other children — all boys — living in the home when the abuse was occurring, police said. The other minor children have been removed by Washington County Children and Youth Services.

Lawyers for the couple could not be reached for comment.

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