exposing the dark side of adoption
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'Terrified' twins unable to testify

Adoptive mother accused of torturing girls, 8By Norb FranzMacomb Daily Staff WriterTwo 8-year-old girls appeared too frightened Tuesday to testify against their adoptive mother, forcing a delay in the case of the Warren woman charged with torturing and abusing them.

The twins clung to social workers, who held the girls closely while escorting them into a Warren courtroom for the preliminary hearing for their adoptive mother, Tamika Shuntell Williams.

Police and prosecutors allege Williams, 30, beat her adopted daughters with a baseball bat and exercise equipment, tied them to a door with ropes and burned them with cigarettes and a lighter. Officials claim Williams threatened to hunt down the twins and kill them if they ever told anyone about the alleged abuse.

Longtime law enforcers have said the alleged acts may be the most disturbing case of child abuse they have seen.

One of the girls -- The Macomb Daily is not publishing their names -- froze in her steps just short of the witness stand Tuesday before 37th District Judge Dawnn Gruenburg and about 15 feet from Williams.

Macomb County assistant prosecutor Jennifer Andary tried to comfort the girl by gently rubbing her back, until officials decided to remove both girls from the courtroom that also included court personnel, reporters and news photographers and nearly one dozen of Williams' relatives, including her parents.

Attorneys on both sides of the case then met privately with Gruenburg in the judge's chambers. While waiting, Williams sporadically shook her head, hung her head, looked at the ceiling and wiped her eyes.

"Don't cry, Tamika," said her father, Mitchell Lesueur.

Gruenburg announced a postponement of the case following the closed-door discussion with the lawyers.

"It's obvious to me speaking to these children they are in no way prepared to testify," the judge said. Without elaborating, Gruenburg said she will close the courtroom when the girls are scheduled to return to testify Jan. 9.

Williams wept as a Macomb County Sheriff's deputy escorted her from the courtroom.

The Warren woman, who is single, adopted the twins in the spring of 2005. She faces two counts each of torture -- an offense punishable by up to life in prison -- and first-degree child abuse, a 15-year felony.

Williams remains in the Macomb County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

Her parents insist she is not guilty and describe her as a loving woman.

"She's having a very hard time being away from her children," defense attorney Ronald Goldstein told reporters outside the courtroom. Asked how his client could explain the bruises and marks on the girls' bodies, he replied: "Let's leave that for the trial."

Andary, who heads the domestic violence unit at the Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, described the offenses carried out against the twins as "sadistic." She acknowledged the personal accounts of the twins are crucial to the prosecution's case.

"The impact the girls will have at this stage is great. They will tell just how they suffered at the hands of the defendant," Andary said.

"They are terrified."

Suspicion the girls were abused began last month, when teachers at Warrendale Elementary School noticed a burn on one of the girl's arms and a bruise on her sister. Macomb County Child Protective Services removed the girls from their home and contacted the Warren Police Department. Police subsequently arrested Williams at her home on Toepfer.

2006 Dec 20