Stunned child abuse investigators said Friday that a Burbank couple kept a 12-year-old girl in a "slave setting" for at least two years, beating her and feeding her only table scraps.
Erlinda Reyes Allan, 37, and Marcus Allan, 42, admitted physically abusing and neglecting the girl, Burbank Police Lt. Don Brown said, after authorities found her hiding near her home.
Brown, a 40-year police veteran who heads the juvenile and gang unit, said he has never seen such an abused child survive.
"There was not a part of her body that was not bruised, cut or split open," he said.
The couple were charged earlier this week with one count each of torture, child abuse and corporal injury to a child. They are being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility near downtown pending a Jan. 4 arraignment in Burbank Superior Court. Bail is set at $630,000 for Marcus Allan and $600,000 for Erlinda Allan.
If convicted, Brown said, the couple could be sentenced to at least 20 years in prison.
Police are still trying to determine whether the girl is the couple's daughter. Three teenagers, two girls and a boy, also lived with the couple, but Brown said police weren't sure of their relationship to the adults or the girl.
Brown said the couple also abused the teenagers, particularly when the older children secretly passed food or gifts to the 12-year-old.
"It was really cruel and hateful," he said.
All four children remained Friday in the custody of the county Department of Children and Family Services.
Residents of the couple's working-class neighborhood near Burbank Airport said they often saw bruises on the girl's face but were told by family members that she had fallen.
"One time I saw her face. Oh, my God, it was all bruised," said next-door neighbor Jessica Vargas, 14. "The whole side of her face was messed up." Vargas said she once saw Marcus Allan order the girl to get him a beer and slap her when she didn't return quickly.
Police said neighbors and school officials called child abuse investigators twice to report that the girl had not been at school. But police said she was never found at home, a duplex in the 2200 block of North Fairview Street, when investigators responded to the calls.
Brown said police eventually learned that the couple had ordered the girl to flee the house and hide whenever police arrived. The couple would tell officers that she was living in the Philippines with relatives, Brown said.
Erlinda Allan is an illegal immigrant who came from the Philippines in 1977 on a visitor's visa, Immigration and Naturalization Service officials told police .
The most recent neighborhood call brought police to the house Dec. 2. Again, the couple told officers that the girl was in the Philippines, according to police. But Brown said police were suspicious and began to question neighbors. The driver of an ice cream truck told police that she had seen a girl with a split lip earlier in the day.
Police and children's department investigators searched the neighborhood and found the girl hiding nearby, Brown said.
He said she was so malnourished that she appeared to be 7 or 8 years old.
"When we see people in this condition, they are usually dead," he said.
Staff writer Carla Rivera contributed to this story.