A Simi Valley man, allegedly beaten with a baseball bat by his wife and her 19-year-old daughter, sustained severe cuts to his head and was lucky to have survived the attack, a police investigator testified Wednesday.
The testimony came during the opening day of a preliminary hearing for Eileen Shannon Childs, 37, who with her daughter, Jennifer, is accused of setting fire to her husband's bedroom in March and then attacking him as he tried to flee.
The pair, dressed Wednesday in blue jail jumpsuits and sporting matching blond ponytails, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and aggravated arson in the attack against Larry Childs, 55.
Eileen Childs also is accused of felony grand theft for allegedly stealing $132,000 from her husband by forging his signature on an insurance check.
The mother and daughter have pleaded not guilty. According to testimony Wednesday, they told police they were defending themselves--Jennifer Childs with a baseball bat, Eileen Childs with a beer mug--after Larry Childs grabbed them by the hair during the chaos that ensued when the family's house caught fire.
Eileen Childs also told police that she was hit in the nose during the fight. According to testimony offered Wednesday, both women told authorities that Larry Childs had not been violent before.
Under questioning by Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Lee, Simi Valley Police Det. Jay Carrott testified that a doctor told him that Larry Childs suffered "large and severe" lacerations to his skull during the March 25 attack.
Carrott recounted an interview with Larry Childs in which he reported waking up in the smoke-filled master bedroom of the family's Atherwood Avenue house.
At first, Larry Childs tried to smother the fire, apparently sparked by a candle that he said wasn't burning when he went to sleep.
When that didn't work, he reportedly ran through the house to alert his family, Carrott said.
Larry Childs said he eventually came face-to-face with Jennifer Childs and at that instant was struck in the head by a baseball bat wielded by Elaine Childs, Carrott testified.
The investigator said Larry Childs told him that Jennifer Childs joined the slugfest and that both women hit him 20 to 30 times while screaming, "Why did you do it?"
Larry Childs told Carrott he had no idea what they were talking about. Carrott said Elaine Childs later told him she and her daughter had believed that Larry Childs had set the fire.
Larry Childs grabbed both women by the hair to make them stop and returned to the master bedroom to put out the fire. He told Carrott he was attacked again while trying to leave the house.
Carrott also offered evidence Wednesday of the family's financial problems, testifying that Larry Childs told him that he had recently discovered that he and his wife were deep in debt.
According to Carrott, Larry Childs also was shocked to learn that Eileen Childs, who suffers from lupus, had cashed a $132,000 life insurance check, made out to him. She is accused of forging his endorsement on the "pre-death benefit" check.
The preliminary hearing, before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Colleen Toy White, is scheduled to resume this morning with the cross-examination of Carrott.