Last May, a 20-year-old woman with developmental disabilities ran away from her Minneapolis home. A day later, she appeared at a homeless shelter with scars and a partially detached ear. She told police she was afraid to go back home, back to the small blue house where she lived with her parents and two sisters, one of them her twin.
Authorities say the woman’s father, Jerry Lee Curry, chained the developmentally delayed twins by their ankles and wrists until they were swollen, scarred, bleeding and infected. For years, he would use bats and wooden paddles to beat them on their arms, legs and heads, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
He repeatedly raped one of his twin daughters, the complaint said. He fathered two of her children.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman called the allegations “as repulsive and horrendous as anything I have seen in my 18 years as county attorney.”
Authorities this week charged Curry, 51, with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, assault, stalking, abuse of a vulnerable adult and child endangerment. He made his first court appearance Thursday and is being jailed on $750,000 bail. He has not filed a plea, and no lawyer has commented on his behalf.
Shelia M. Wilson, the 48-year-old mother of the twins and their 11-year-old sister was also charged Thursday with three child neglect counts, two of which were felonies. Police have not yet been able to locate her.
About a week after police first entered the family’s residence in May, Hennepin County Human Services removed the children and the older twins from the home and placed them in licensed care facilities. In a news conference Thursday, Freeman described the twins as “vulnerable adults” with “some limited capacity to communicate.”
It would take months for investigators to unravel the alleged abuse.
“This is a very complex and complicated case,” Freeman said. “Frankly, we’re all shocked at what we learned.”
The twin that first escaped, now 21, told police Curry would fasten a dog chain around one or both of her ankles, connecting the other end to his bedroom door. He began doing this when she was about 15 years old, she said, when he first learned she was sexually active. He restrained her for days at a time to keep her from seeing men or from eating food, she said, according to the criminal complaint.
Investigators documented disturbing injuries on the woman, who doctors said showed the intellectual capacity of a first-to-third-grader. The top of her ear was largely detached. She had scars above each eyebrow, on her scalp line and on her back. Her wrists and ankles were swollen and scarred from the chains.
At one point, she told police, Curry stomped on her head, leaving her unable to see out of her left eye. Her left pupil was completely gray and slightly protruded, according to the complaint, and ophthalmologists said her eye had only a small chance of healing.
Her twin sister was pregnant when police removed her from the home and took her to a hospital. She initially denied any physical abuse was taking place, claiming her scars were dog scratches or mosquito bites and saying she did not know the father of her child. But more than a month later, a nurse found her crying in her hospital room. She told the nurse she was routinely raped by Curry while Wilson was not home, according to court documents. She also described being beaten and chained. Medical providers determined both sisters had been victims of torture and found DNA indicating Curry was the father of his daughter’s child.
Their younger sister, now 11, also initially denied experiencing or observing any physical abuse. More than a month later, she corroborated the sisters’ abuse allegations and said Curry had beaten her with a golf club in the head in second or third grade. Curry even forced the young girl to hit her older sisters with a stick, she told authorities. The 11-year-old sister was considered too young to be chained to Curry’s bedroom door, the older sisters told police.
“I’m quite convinced that at the threat of serious violence these two young women were told to deny any wrongdoing was occurring,” Freeman said.
The horrific revelations followed two other high-profile child abuse cases across the country in recent weeks. Last month, prosecutors allege that David and Louise Turpin starved 12 of their 13 children, chaining them to beds in their Perris, Calif., home for long periods of time. In Arizona this week, police charged a couple with abusing their four adoptive children, who were allegedly kept locked in their rooms without food, water, lights or bathroom facilities for hours at a time.
Much like in those cases, Freeman described the Minneapolis residence as a “house of horrors.”
When officers first entered the home in May, they described the scene as a “sex chamber” according to a child protection filing made on behalf of a 3-year-old born to one twin, the Star Tribune reported. “There was pornography playing, sexual toys and objects strewn about the room,” officers stated. Two dogs were in the basement lying in their own feces and urine.
From 2011 until mid-2017, police responded to 53 calls for service to the home, the Star Tribune reported, for domestic disturbances and welfare checks. Child protection workers investigated the home on numerous occasions, and the twins received medical treatment for their wounds at times.
Nevertheless, it took years for reports to rise to the level of criminal allegations.
Laura Wolovitch, a neighbor of the family’s, told the Star Tribune she called police and child protection services numerous times over the years to report the family. She said she rarely saw the twins going to school and always saw them carrying out trash or doing yard work.
On one cold winter day a couple years ago, she told the Star Tribune, she saw one of the twins outside in the back yard wearing only a T-shirt. For some reason, the girl would not move.
“It was like she was being punished,” Wolovitch said.
This story was originally reported by the Washington Post