Abusers get max sentence
November 29, 2006
Six inches taller and twice the weight she was when she escaped the confines of her family’s Como Street apartment nearly a year ago, a Carson City girl asked a judge Wednesday to lock her grandmother up until she was 85 years old.
“Because of you, instead of driving a car, going out on dates, looking and feeling like a regular teenager, I am now a 17-year-old in fourth grade, learning what I should have learned a long time ago,” the 98-pound Jasmine said breathlessly but unflinchingly to her grandmother Esther Rios, 57. “I am 4 feet, 6 inches tall. I still can’t walk or run right. My teeth are badly damaged. I need glasses now. I really don’t know who I am or where I belong because of you.”
The judge didn’t let Jasmine down. For two counts of child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment, Esther Rios, 57, will be in prison until she is at least 85. The ringleader of the five years of unbelievable abuse against Jasmine and David will likely die in prison. The judge gave her a maximum of 70 years.
“Ms. Rios, I think you’re the reason why we are all here. I have no idea why you’d treat your grandchildren like you did. What happened to these kids is absolutely grotesque,” said District Court Judge Bill Maddox. In his decision he rejected the defense argument that Rios and her daughter Regina were trying to protect Jasmine from an eating disorder. “I’m not sending any mixed messages here. I want to make it real clear that we have to protect our children.”
Jasmine, her brother David and two healthy siblings testified along with three doctors during the day-long sentencing hearing for Esther Rios, Regina Rios and Regina’s husband, Tomas Granados.
Though the prosecution offered Regina Rios and Granados pleas to lesser charges, the judge’s sentences didn’t reflect any additional mercy. They, too, received the maximum.
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Regina Rios received up to 55 years in prison on two counts of permitting child abuse and one count of false imprisonment. Granados received up to 35 years on one count of permitting child abuse and one count of false imprisonment.
On Jan. 19, deputies found Jasmine weighing just 41 pounds and pushing a shopping cart of food three blocks from her home. When questioned, she told officers she’d escaped from the bathroom and that she and her brother had been locked there by their grandmother for the past five years where they were beaten and starved. When police went to the apartment, they found 11-year-old David, weighing 31 pounds, hiding under a bed. His toes were frostbitten and his legs and feet deformed from living in the cramped quarters of the master bedroom bathroom. A pediatrician said the children’s bodies were reminiscent of the victims of Nazi death camps. Officers also found three other healthy children in the home.
On Wednesday, looking like a 7-year-old, a now 12-year-old David was dressed smartly in a suit and tie, with glasses resting on his nose. He took the stand for the first time and spoke directly to his mother and grandmother.
“Grandmother, why did you lock me up? Why did you beat me and my sister and make (another sister) bust open my head? You didn’t feed me for three days. You were mean to me and my sister,” the 4-foot-tall boy said as he glared at Esther Rios. “I should be in sixth grade, but I’m in third because you wouldn’t let me go to school. I’m short because you wouldn’t feed me. I can never see Mommy again because of what you did.”
Nearly a year later, David has gained 14 pounds and is able to walk. A speech impediment, making his speech hard to decipher 316 days ago, was barely noticeable after months of therapy.
“Mommy, I miss you. Why didn’t you let us out? Why did you listen to Grandmother?” The boy sobbed as he looked at his weeping mother, Regina Rios, 34. “I forgive you for everything, but I can’t trust you anymore.”
His emotion was contagious. Maddox was seen wiping his eyes, as was the court reporter.
“Do you have anything to say to Tomas Granados?” Chief Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer asked David.
“Yes,” the boy said staring angrily at his stepfather. “You’re ugly.”
David’s 18-year-old brother, whom the judge said could not be named, read a statement in which he talked of the family’s fear of being separated and how now a year later he can see how bad it was.
“I thank my sister, the only one who broke out of the fear and became the hero of our family,” he said. “My mother, grandmother and stepfather were good people who each had their own problems. They were good people who made a very stupid and bad decision.”
Regina Rios read from a three-page statement.
“I am so very sorry, with all my heart for the pain I have caused. Even though my children continue to love me as always, I want them to know I was wrong. God gave me my children to protect, and I have failed,” she said. She went on to speak of not being able to stand up to her mother, whom she called an abuser. “Even though I am incarcerated, I am the freest I have ever been. I can finally get help and answers to my questions of why I was not brave enough to do what my most precious, most bravest daughter did – get help and free us all from the lies.”
Rios also apologized to Granados.
“I’m sorry to my dear husband, who only ever tried to love us,” she said.
Granados spoke briefly, saying he was sorry for not being a better stepfather.
“I know that I should have been more involved,” he said.
Esther Rios continued to deny any abuse and said she regretted the decision to lock up the children.
“I didn’t have the enough courage to go and seek outside help,” she said.
Jasmine’s and David’s foster mother, who asked to not be identified, also testified to the progress the children have made with the help of a new family and a battalion of doctors and therapists.
“At age 12, David celebrated his birthday for the first time. Jasmine celebrated her first birthday at the age of 17,” the woman said. “They had been held in captivity for so long that they had no concept of the outside world. Neither remembered seeing a butterfly before, and were concerned it might bite. The moon and the stars were also amazing to them. In the nine months we have had them, they have learned to swim, ride bikes, and go to different schools without anxiety.”
The foster mother also spoke of the abuse the healthy children in the home had to endure as well.
“Thought must also be given to the three siblings. The adults in the family taught them to lie and show no pity or mercy. They learned it was acceptable to brutalize another human being and that their brother and sister were subhuman.”
In closing, District Attorney Noel Waters pointed to the progress of the children in their foster home, as proof of the abuse they endured.
“It just shows the miracle of what a little love can do,” he said.
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.