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Mother Says Chaining Boys Was Part of Loving Discipline

Family: Three adults arrested in abuse case say their strict religious life in the desert has been misinterpreted.

October 22, 2000|SCOTT GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — The mother of two boys who authorities say were tortured and imprisoned in a desert compound admitted in an interview Saturday to often shackling them with dog chains, locks and wire over the past nine years.

In separate interviews at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Carrie Davis and two other adults charged in the case described a strict, disciplined, God-fearing but loving household.

Handcuffed and dressed in green and orange jumpsuits, they looked gaunt and nervous behind the thick glass of the jail interview room. Combined, the three painted a picture of their lives remarkably different than that offered by authorities. The mother, for example, told of backyard martial-arts lessons for the boys and evenings spent listening to country music and the band Journey.

Casting themselves as martyrs, the three denied many of the charges against them, including allegations that the children were malnourished, underdeveloped and rarely allowed to speak.

But 42-year-old Carrie Davis, mother of 17-year-old Yahweh Lord and 12-year-old Angel Lord, conceded during her interview that she and her husband began to tie the boys to a bench in their bedroom in 1991.

She said the couple began using restraints when the children became disobedient while locked in their room for Bible studies.

Davis said she began using strips of fabric, tied around the boys' wrists, to tether them to a bench while they studied. That worked "for the longest time," she said, but when they learned how to untie the knots, she said she began using dog chains and wire wrapped around their wrists. When the boys learned to untangle the wire, she said, she switched to stronger chains and locks.

"It was mostly just a psych job," she said. "I love those children with all my heart. . . . We're not a typical American household."

Asked to explain their disciplinary tactics, Davis quoted the Bible's Book of Proverbs: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently."

Her husband, 53-year-old John "Rajohn Lord" Davis, described by neighbors as a domineering man and a religious fanatic who thinks he is a surrogate of God, said, without elaboration, that he believes he cannot sin. He described himself as a minister who found God at age 6, when his mother died of a heart attack, and said that he achieved salvation while fighting in the Vietnam War.

"Look right in my eyes," he said. "Do I look like a monster? Do I look like an evil person?"

The Davises and 46-year-old Faye Potts, a resident of the house whose relationship to the couple authorities say is unclear, were arrested Monday and charged with torture, false imprisonment and cruelty to a child. They are being held in lieu of $2 million bail each.

San Bernardino County authorities discovered the case when the older boy called 911 early in the morning of Oct. 14 to report that he and his brother were being held prisoner. The call was placed from the family's 10-acre, fenced and camouflaged compound in a remote community known as Wonder Valley, northeast of Twentynine Palms.

According to investigators, deputies found the children bearing the marks of whips on their backs and chains on their wrists. The 17-year-old, they said, looks like a 10-year-old, and the 12-year-old looks like a 5-year-old. Neighbors said they once saw the two boys, apparently famished, eating wildflowers on a rare appearance outside the compound.

Officials said the children had never been to a school or a doctor, and many neighbors didn't even know the Davises had sons. Apparently isolated for years, the boys gaped at the outside world when taken away by social workers.

Authorities have described the case as the most severe episode of child abuse in the history of San Bernardino County.

The defendants denied many of the charges, and offered innocent interpretations of others.

Mother Describes Life at Home

Carrie Davis, for example, said she cooked two large meals each day for the boys, and accused investigators of concocting allegations that her sons were fed only rice and bread. She said the boys were also fed noodles, beans, fruit and vegetables--so much food that at times Yahweh and Angel couldn't finish their meals.

She said the boys were occasionally spanked and whipped with belts, but were not beaten excessively. The boys were hosed off outside the house instead of bathed, she said, but the entire family bathed outdoors during warm months because their home has no hot water.

The mother agreed that the boys had little contact with the outside world and no friends, but said this was because there are no children their age in the area.

She acknowledged that they were rarely allowed outdoors but said the boys were exercised regularly. "We take them out to exercise," she said. "We run them."

Carrie Davis said she suffers from chronic depression and that she and Potts receive Social Security benefits for mental disabilities.

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