EVERETT – Washington state on Friday agreed to pay $9 million to six siblings, after the oldest two were tortured and abused by their stepfather, a previously convicted child rapist.
The family left Washington for New Mexico in 2007 amid an investigation by the Department of Social and Health Services. Although Washington social workers did not have evidence of abuse, they had concluded that the children were in danger and had been left alone with their stepfather, who had been previously convicted of raping a 4-year-old, said John Dorgan, a lawyer for the siblings.
Despite having that knowledge, and despite being aware of the family’s new address in New Mexico, the state failed to alert New Mexico authorities, Dorgan said.
The oldest daughter, who was frequently tied up for days at a time, escaped out a window of the family’s home in Laguna, south of Albuquerque, after using her teeth to untie a rope. Police responded, and the mother and stepfather were each sentenced to prison terms of more than two decades.
The investigation revealed that the oldest children were often handcuffed or tied to a toilet or to a pillar in a den at the home, and that they frequently went without food. The younger children often witnessed the abuse.
“In this case a phone call would have prevented this abuse,” another attorney for the siblings, Timothy Tesh, said in a written statement. “The settlement will hopefully mitigate, in time, the damage this preventable tragedy has wreaked on these young lives.”
John Wiley, a DSHS spokesman, said the department was gratified that the adults responsible for the abuse were in prison.
“It is now our hope that the six plaintiffs, who are now ages 8 to 20, are able to use these award funds for treatment, for education and other needs as they move forward into adulthood,” Wiley said.
The settlement must be approved by the Snohomish County Superior Court. Wiley said the department did not concede as part of the settlement that it should have filed for dependency, nor that it should have made additional efforts to notify authorities in New Mexico – a question that would have been addressed had the case gone to trial in June, as scheduled.
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