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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The starvation of the Santiago children--Dallas, Texas

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Dallas couple is accused of keeping three of their children in a Love Field area motel bathroom and starving them, police said.

Alfred Santiago, 37, is also accused of raping one of the children repeatedly, according to police documents. The mother of the children, Abneris Santiago, 30, faces a charge of injury to a child.
According to police documents, Abneris Santiago called police to the Budget Suites in the 8100 block of North Stemmons Freeway, near Mockingbird Lane, on July 2. She told officers that she wanted to be escorted while she picked up her four children, ages 11, 10, 5 and 1.

The officers found the youngest child in a crib and the three others emaciated and in a bathroom. One of the children told police that Alfred Santiago beat them and deprived them of food, the documents said.

That child also told investigators that Alfred Santiago sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, the documents said.

The children were evaluated at Children's Medical Center Dallas, where they were found to be severely malnourished. Child Protective Services has taken the children into custody, police said.

Alfred Santiago was being held at the Dallas County Jail on sexual assault charges, and his bail was set at $125,000. Abneris Santiago was being held on the injury to a child charge. Her bail was $50,000, according to jail records.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three children found shut inside a Love Field area motel bathroom this month were so emaciated that they vomited when child protective workers first tried to feed them, authorities say.

Their ribs protruded. Their cheeks and eyes sank into dark hollows. Their lips were dry, swollen and cracked.

Authorities say the children – ages 6, 10 and 11 – were kept inside the bathroom day and night for almost a year, maybe longer.

Their mother, Abneris Santiago, told investigators that the bathroom's toilet had been broken for several months but that she would flush and clean it every morning so the children "would be in a clean place."

Court records describe in horrifying detail the physical, emotional and sexual abuse that authorities say the children's stepfather inflicted – and their mother failed to stop.

So far, Santiago, 30, faces a charge of injury to a child. Her husband, 37-year-old Alfred Santiago, faces charges of aggravated sexual assault and continuous sexual abuse. Both are being held in the Dallas County Jail.

Authorities discovered the children after their mother's brother drove from Ohio to check on the family and called Dallas police. The brother, Abner Santiago, said his sister had spoken to their mother on the phone.

"My sister told her that Alfredo was being very abusive to her, that he's been threatening her, that he's been threatening to kill the kids," the brother said.

Family members had been concerned about Abneris Santiago for several years since she met Alfred Santiago and abruptly moved from Florida, where her mother had been "basically raising the kids for her," the brother said.

Neither parent has an arrest history in Dallas County. Alfred Santiago's record in Florida includes arrests on misdemeanor battery and DWI charges.

On July 2, Abner Santiago found his sister at the barbecue restaurant where she worked. They called police to ask for an escort while they took the kids from where the family lived – a suite in the Budget Suites in the 8100 block of North Stemmons Freeway.

Inside the suite, officers found Alfred Santiago, along with a baby in a crib. The child, the Santiagos' 1-year-old daughter, appeared healthy.

Then officers found Abneris Santiago's other three children – fathered by different men – shut inside a bathroom. The children's uncle remembers watching them emerge from the suite.
"My jaw just hit the floor," Abner Santiago said. "I just broke down."

The children were taken to Children's Medical Center Dallas, where they remained for 10 days.
The 11-year-old daughter told investigators she thought they'd been shut in the bathroom since October. Authorities weren't certain whether she meant 2007 or 2008.

The only times they were allowed to leave the bathroom was when Alfred Santiago took a shower, the girl said. She said that he'd been raping her for three years and that she'd told her mother about it several times.

The children went without food for days, the girl said. They hoarded it in their clothes and in shampoo bottles, not knowing when they might get more.

The girl said she last remembered being in school several years ago, before completing the third grade.

The 10-year-old, a boy, was covered with bruises in various stages of healing. He told investigators that Alfred Santiago, before moving from Florida, was a "nice, nice, gentle man," court records say. Once the family moved to Texas, the boy told investigators, "That is when my living nightmare began."

He said Santiago began beating him and his mother, particularly when he was drinking.
The boy told investigators that Alfred Santiago accused his stepchildren of being "rapists." Santiago told their mother they had molested their youngest sister, and she believed him, the boy said. He explained that was why they were not allowed around other children, eventually not allowed outside, and finally shut inside the bathroom.

After an interview with the boy, a child protective worker asked him if he needed anything. "I'm safe, that is all I need," the boy replied, according to a CPS report.

Investigators also spoke with Abneris Santiago. The mother told them her husband began to abuse the family gradually after they moved to Texas. She said she worked six days a week, leaving the children in her husband's care, because she had to "put a roof over their head," according to a CPS report.

She told investigators she fed the children breakfast and dinner and tried to "sneak them food," the report says, but in doing so, she "risked a beating."

The mother admitted smoking marijuana daily to "cope with the situation," the report said...
"You have no idea what I've been through," she said, adding, the report says, as an afterthought, "or the children."

The report said that Abneris Santiago appeared obese but that she repeated how hungry she was and said she'd been so upset she hadn't eaten for two days.

Abneris and Alfred Santiago did not respond immediately to interview requests Monday. Abner Santiago said he met his brother-in-law only briefly. "He didn't seem like the best guy in the world," he said. "But I would have never thought that he would have been this monster."

As for his sister, he said the family supports her and sees her as a victim, but he also thinks authorities did the right thing arresting her.

"I'm sure she was being abused, but when you see the kids, something just hits you," he said. "You don't know how another human being could let kids get to that point."

All four children are in temporary foster care. Abner Santiago said his mother, who lives in Tampa, Fla., would like to gain custody.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Dallas Morning News
Dallas police say Abneris Santiago had "ample opportunity" to save her kids from the horrors of being shut inside a bathroom for months with little food.

But her court-appointed defense attorney said Tuesday that his client showed courage coming forward when she did. "It was pretty brave of her to risk the consequences and notify police to help rescue her children," attorney James Jamison said.

Santiago, 30, remained in the Dallas County Jail on $50,000 bail Tuesday. Facing a charge of injury to a child, she is accused of failing to extricate her children from abuse allegedly inflicted on them by 37-year-old Alfred Santiago.

"She has definitely made some poor choices in her male relations and male companionship," Jamison said. "This poor choice of a boyfriend was pretty much holding her hostage and the children hostage."

Child Protective Services and police records refer to Alfred Santiago as Abneris Santiago's husband and the children's stepfather, but a CPS spokeswoman said Tuesday that the couple say they are not actually married and share the same last name by coincidence.

Authorities say Alfred Santiago kept the children – ages 6, 10 and 11 – inside a bathroom day and night for almost a year at a Stemmons Corridor motel. They may have been there longer.
He is being held in jail on charges of sexual assault against one of them.

Police found the children emaciated on July 2, after Abneris Santiago's brother drove from Ohio to check on the family and called police. He accompanied his sister and police to the motel suite and knocked on the door.

His sister, the brother said, was not allowed by Alfred Santiago to have a key to the suite. Abneris Santiago told investigators he was abusive toward her, hitting her, kicking her and pulling her hair.

"Apparently he told her that if he saw the cops show up at the door, that he was going to kill the first kid before he opened up the door," said her brother, Abner Santiago. After he knocked on the door and Alfred Santiago opened it, officers took over and rescued the children, Abner Santiago said.

A doctor's report said the children were severely underweight and suffered from life-threatening malnourishment. The 11-year-old girl weighed 59 pounds; the 10-year-old boy, 58 pounds; and the 6-year-old boy, 29 pounds.

Police say Abneris Santiago knew that the children were starving and failed to do enough about it.

"Any reasonable person could see that the [children] were in immediate need of medical care," a police affidavit says. Abneris Santiago "stated that she was aware that the accomplice was not feeding the complainant and her siblings because 'they were not his responsibility.' "

"The suspect went to work daily and had ample opportunity to seek help and medical care for the [children]," the affidavit says. "The suspect failed to seek medical attention." Jamison said his client acted when she could.

"If she has to end up in jail, and the children have to be placed with relatives, she's willing to accept that just as the consequence of being able to get away from this man," he said.
When he spoke to her about a week ago, his client was thankful things didn't turn out worse, Jamison said.

"I think the best way to describe it would be she's kind of relieved that this ongoing problem and this captivity she's had with this man is over," he said.

July 24, 2009

...This whole tragic situation came to light when Abneris allegedly called her mother to complain about her boyfriend. Apparently it only took her a few years to complain. Ruth Leon, the children’s maternal grandmother stated:

“She was crying and she said `Mom, I cannot take no more of this monster. He is threatening me, and this monster is making my life miserable, making it a living hell.”

Mrs. Leon then called Abneris’s brother Abner Santiago, who along with his wife Sonia, made a 1,200 mile drive from Ohio to Texas to check on his sister. When they reached Dallas, they picked Abneris up from the restaurant that employed her. Albert and Sonia, not knowing what to expect, called for police assistance before arriving at the Budget Suites of America.

...A doctor’s report said the children were severely underweight and suffered from life-threatening malnourishment. The 11-year-old girl weighed 59 pounds; the 10-year-old boy weighed 58 pounds; and the 6-year-old boy weighed 29 pounds.

Oddly, police reports indicate that the motel room the Santiago’s stayed in was “very, very, clean”.

... Alfred Santiago has now gone on record as saying he is the victim here.

In an interview from jail, Alfred Santiago said he did nothing wrong and he considers himself the victim. He said the three children were a danger to his daughter and accused them of pouring urine on the baby.

“The one who is being disrespected right now is I, because I’m the one who’s being abused,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “What I was doing is protecting my baby daughter from her kids. What I did was I did not leave my daughter out of my sight.”

He also told the newspaper that the children were to blame for their poor health because of their refusal to eat “mountains of rice, of chicken, of pork chops, of hot dogs. They were skinny because they were not eating the food,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to say it, I was feeding them, but they were not eating their food.”...


Anonymous said...

Both Mother and Stepfather are to blame and should be punished to the extent that Dallas Laws pemit. They have no right being parents.

Anonymous said...

It's about a year later, and this is all back in the news due to the sentencing now occurring. Would sure appreciate hearing an update on how the kids are doing, hopefully as well as can be hoped.

Gotta wonder what the adults lives were like when they were kids, to have such a low value for human life. And gotta wonder how many other children are growing up in similar situations, and if they aren't found and helped, they'll just grow up to be victims and victimizers themselves.