Hearing begins in case of boys locked in bedroom
November 6, 2009
A hearing Friday to determine if there is enough evidence to try a Carson City couple in the alleged abuse of their two sons was continued after a dispute over whether a police interview of the mother was admissible.
Robert and Linda Williams are each charged with three counts of child abuse and two counts of child neglect.
Detective Daniel Gonzales was the state’s last witness in the day-long preliminary hearing Friday. When he began to testify on the interview he had with Linda Williams, court appointed attorney Tom Armstrong objected.
Armstrong said the interview violated Linda Williams’ rights and neither he nor Robert Williams’ attorney, public defender Noel Waters, had been provided a copy of the recorded interview.
Justice of the Peace Robey Willis asked Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner to give the defense the interview. Willis continued the hearing to Monday to give the defense time to review it.
It was the second seeming blow to a criminal case against the Williamses that caused a outrage in the community. The first came when the report taken by the first deputy on scene seemed, during cross examination, to exaggerate the state of the home or omit facts.
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The couple was arrested Oct. 3 after Carson City deputies found their sons, ages 5 and 3, locked in a bedroom in the couple’s southeast Carson City mobile home.
According to court documents, the younger child had a large infected abrasion on his right cheek, allegedly from his mother scrubbing Wite-Out off him with a kitchen scrubber. The older boy had two black eyes.
But Armstrong and Waters each pointed out on cross examination with arresting officer Deputy Tara Collier that her arrest report was “erroneous” because she stated there were no toys in the children’s room, and nothing outside the home to indicate children lived there.
In fact, Waters said, there is playground equipment and a motorized child’s car in plain view of the street.
“You didn’t look in the back, you didn’t note in the report there were toys and a TV in the children’s room with cartoons on,” Armstrong stated.
Collier said she didn’t see the backyard, nor did she notice the toys in the room.
Collier testified that when she went to the home, Robert Williams greeted her at the door.
At her request to speak with the children, she said, he slid a latch at the top of their bedroom door to allow her in the room.
“When the door opened there was an overwhelming odor of urine, it consumed me,” she said. “On the top bunk there were two small boys. One appeared to be sleeping – I couldn’t wake him – and the other was hiding. He peeked out from his covers like a little scared critter. I tried my best mom voice and I couldn’t get him to come out from under the covers.”
She said in her report that two small toddler potties were on the floor, both of them “filled” with urine.
And one of the windows in the room was boarded up, she said, while another was covered with a blind, the view from it blocked by a large bush outside.
Collier said she noticed the sleeping child had a sore on his face.
“It looked like road rash to me. It was a large abrasion, bright red all the way around it. It looked infected,” she said.
Williams was immediately arrested and refused to speak with police, Collier said.
She said another deputy found Linda Williams at her job as a nursing assistant and placed her under arrest.
At the jail, said Collier, when she asked the mother if she knew why she had been arrested, Linda Williams allegedly said, “Because I abused my children.”
Linda also allegedly offered an explanation when asked about the sore on the youngest boy’s face, said Collier.
“She told me she came home from work and she saw he had Wite-Out on his face. She said she took a washcloth and soap and scrubbed his face and that she put ointment on it,” said Collier. “I asked her if she felt (the children) had adequate care and she said no.”
Gardner presented photographs of the toddler potties and the children’s injuries.
On cross examination, Collier said a deputy helping her catalog evidence failed to photograph the sliding bolt that had allegedly been on the exterior of the bedroom door.
Gonzales testified when he returned to the home three days later with a search warrant, the lock was not on the door, though there were holes on the door and frame that showed where it would have been. The potties had also been emptied and placed in the bathroom, he said.
Neighbor Debbie Bedoy stated she used to babysit the children and that when she’d arrive at the home in the early morning, the children would be locked in their bedroom.
She said their clothes were often “wetter than wet.”
Waters asked if it would be unusual for a young child to wake up in the morning with wet clothing and Bedoy conceded it would not.
Foster mother Carolyn Garrett said when she took custody of the children on the evening of the Oct. 3, the boys, both in diapers, were shy and would not make eye contact.
She said the older child flinches when he hears loud voices.
“He apologizes and backs up like he’s gonna get smacked,” she said.
Division of Child and Family Services social worker Ronald Souter said he arrived at the house on the night of the Williamses’ arrests and noted the conditions of the home.
He said he saw toys in the children’s room, but he also noted the bedding was urine soaked and the toddler potties were “half full.”
When asked by Waters if he saw the playground equipment in the backyard, Souter said he had not.
“Would you be interested if the backyard was full of toys,” asked Waters.
“Yes,” said Souter. “That’s pertinent.”
“I recommend you go to the house,” Waters said.
Testimony will continue at 1:30 p.m. Monday. The Williamses remain in custody at the Carson City Jail.