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Parents Accused of Torturing Children Face New Charges

Family: Prosecutors act after one son, now 17, says the Wonder Valley couple and another adult burned the body of his brother in 1991.

October 31, 2000|SCOTT GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After hearing the statement of a 17-year-old who says his parents burned his brother's body in a trash can, prosecutors filed another round of torture charges Monday against three adults accused of abusing and imprisoning two brothers in the San Bernardino County desert.

The case began after the two teenage boys told investigators earlier this month that they had been tortured for years in their home in Wonder Valley, a rural community near Twentynine Palms. Authorities say the boys were malnourished and underdeveloped, and bore the marks of whips and chains. Social workers say they were hidden from the outside world by a strictly religious father and mother and another woman living in the home.

Shortly after arresting the three adults, officials learned of a third son, named Rainbow, who apparently died in 1991.

On Monday the three adults were charged with torture in the alleged beating of the third boy. San Bernardino County Supervising Deputy Dist. Atty. Linda Root said those alleged beatings may have contributed to his death.

The adults' court-appointed defense attorneys could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. The three, who face life sentences if convicted, are being held on $2 million bail each.

Root said she has learned through interviews with the defendants, the surviving boys and other witnesses that Rainbow became sick in the spring of 1991.

The prosecutor said she expects to show at trial that when Rainbow misbehaved, he was beaten severely by his father, John "Rajohn Lord" Davis, and Faye Potts, the other adult who shared the home with Davis and his wife, Carrie. Root would not elaborate, but said witness statements indicate Rainbow, the middle son, was kicked in the abdomen and beaten with "an instrument."

Witnesses have since told investigators that they saw Davis cradling Rainbow's body in his arms after the alleged beating. And the older of the surviving boys, Yahweh Lord, has told investigators that he watched as his parents burned Rainbow's body in a trash can.

"He has a fairly clear recollection of his childhood," Root said. "He saw the flames."

In their statements to investigators, the adults have acknowledged burning the body, but maintain that Rainbow died of illness, not beatings, officials said.

Earlier in the investigation, detectives found two bone fragments in a remote corner of the desert. The fragments may be connected to the case, but anthropologists have not determined their origin.

Root said she cannot charge the relatives with homicide because she cannot directly link the alleged beating of Rainbow to his death. But she said that on the basis of the family's statements, "I would certainly feel that there is enough to ask a jury [to find] that those injuries contributed to his death."

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