California - Ten children have been removed from their home in northern California, where police say they were tortured and living in "horrible" conditions.
The investigation began on March 31 after police brought a 12-year-old who was reported missing back to the house on the 2200 block of Fieldstone Court in Fairfield, California, about 46 miles northeast of San Francisco. The boy had been asleep under a bush in the yard of a nearby home, according to a police statement Monday.
Upon entering Rogers's residence, they discovered that nine of her other children, ranging in age from 4 months to 11 years, were living in "unsafe and unsanitary" squalor. The 10 children were taken into protective custody by Solano County Child Welfare services and then placed in the care of other family members.
The children's mother, 30-year-old Ina Rogers was arrested that evening and booked into Solano County Jail for child neglect. Then, on Friday, 29-year-old Jonathan Allen - who is the father of the majority of the children, according to Rogers - was also arrested, charged with nine counts of felony torture and six counts of felony child abuse.
Authorities on Monday for the first time detailed the disturbing conditions of the couple's home, which has shocked neighbours in the tree-lined cul-de-sac who said they did not know 10 children were living in the house. Human and animal faeces, urine, garbage and rotten food littered the floor, while heaps of debris blocked off certain areas of the house, the police statement said. There, the children not only lived in filth but were victims of physical and emotional abuse. In the six weeks since their mother's March arrest, the eight older children described to authorities several incidents of intentional abuse dating back to 2014, which resulted in puncture wounds, burns, bruising and injuries consistent with being shot with a BB or airsoft gun, police said.
The children's accounts of their abuse led authorities to issue a warrant for Allen's arrest. He appeared in court Monday, where he pleaded not guilty. A judge ordered him held in lieu of a little more than $5 million (about R60 million) bail, said Sharon Henry, chief deputy district attorney for Solano County. As the investigation continues, Henry said there's a "good chance" Rogers could face additional charges.
The alleged abuse was done with "sadistic purpose," Henry said during a news conference. "Based upon what the children stated in their interviews, we believe torture occurred in this house."
Fairfield police Lt. Greg Hurlbut said the children are still in the custody of other family members and "seem to be improving," adding that he has not had a case in his decades as a police officer "where we charged someone with torture of their own children, if that tells you something."
Rogers could not be reached Monday evening for comments. Solano County Public defenders office did not respond immediately to request for information on legal representation for Allen.
On Monday, Rogers, who was out after posting $10 000 (about R120 000) bail according to the Associated Press, gave reporters a tour of her four-bedroom house. She said she and her husband both came from broken homes and wanted a large family, according to the AP. Rogers said she works the graveyard shift as an EKG technician at a heart monitoring company and that Allen is a tattoo artist. The children, authorities said, were home-schooled.
She said she first got pregnant when she was 16 and that she has 11 biological children. Allen, whom Rogers met about 10 years ago, is the father of eight of those children, according to ABC 7 News.
"Not only do I have 11 children and I'm 30 years old, but I also home-school all of my children and people don't agree with that lifestyle and so I've had many people question my right to parent and I just feel like this whole situation was exploded," Rogers said, according to ABC News.
Rogers told reporters that the children chose to sleep in one bedroom because they were close, and that the other four bedrooms were used as a master bedroom, a playroom and a meditation room, according to the AP. She said she felt judged for having so many children and for choosing to home-school them. The only reason the house was messy when police arrived, she said, was because she'd torn it apart looking for her 12-year-old son. He had been angry because Allen and Rogers had tried to take away his tablet computer, Rogers said, according to the AP.
Reporters noted that during the tour, however, the house was still filthy, with scuffed walls and animal feces in the bathroom, according to the AP.
Neighbours in the cul-de-sac said they did not know how many children were living in the house as they were mostly kept out of sight, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. One neighbour, Larry Magney, who lives across the street, said Allen and Rogers moved in about a year ago.
He said Rogers approached him at the end of March about her missing son as Magney was coming home from church. He told her it was unlikely her son was in his back yard because his dog would have barked, he said, according to the Chronicle.
"She was pretty concerned, and she was like, you know, running around the neighbourhood," Magney said, adding that he was "shocked" to learn that 10 children were living in the house, the Chronicle reported.
Another neighbour who lived next door, Tawnya Roth, said she had thought the couple only had three children, the Chronicle reported. She said that they had a baby when they first moved in and another baby late last year.
Rogers told reporters she was surprised that her husband was facing such serious allegations, according to the AP.
"There's no broken bones, there is no major scars, nothing," Rogers said. "My kids get bumped and bruised and scratched because they're kids but that's it."
The Washington Post