Calif. couple charged with torturing, abusing teen
|Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and her husband Michael Schumacher, 34, appear in a Stockton, Calif., courtroom on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008. Both are charged with kidnapping and torturing a 17-year-old boy authorities say was sometimes kept shackled inside their home.|
STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) -- A husband and wife were charged Thursday with kidnapping and torturing a 17-year-old boy authorities say was sometimes kept shackled inside their home. The boy's one-time guardian also was charged with similar abuse allegations.
Kelly Layne Lau and husband Michael Schumacher, of Tracy, were charged with 13 counts of abuse and former guardian Caren Ramirez, whom the boy called an aunt, was charged with 10 counts.
They allegedly abused him with a baseball bat, belt and knife, according to court documents. The abuse at the couple's home started in July 2007, the papers say. They were also charged with aggravated mayhem, which the San Joaquin Valley District Attorney's office said could yield life sentences if they are convicted.
Lau and Schumacher were expected to appear in court Thursday. Ramirez was being held at the county jail for psychiatric evaluation.
The boy escaped from the home in Tracy, about 60 miles east of San Francisco, on Monday and fled with a chain still attached to his foot to a nearby fitness center. He appeared emaciated, was covered in soot, and wearing only boxer shorts.
Lau, 30, told KGO-TV of San Francisco in a jailhouse interview Wednesday that the boy and Ramirez, 43, came to live with her family more than a year ago because they had nowhere else to go.
Ramirez, Lau said, instructed Lau and her husband to discipline the boy as she did. Lau said she struck the boy in the knee with a baseball bat at least five times, KGO reported.
Lau said she participated in the abuse because she was afraid Ramirez would hurt her own children. Ramirez also burned the boy with an aluminum bat held in a fire in the fireplace, Lau said.
Ramirez also would not let anyone else feed the boy, Lau said, adding that the teen would sit in the living room and watch while the Schumacher family, including their four young children, ate meals in the kitchen.
Those children, between ages 1 and 9, were placed with Child Protective Services after their parents' arrest. Authorities have said they showed no signs of abuse.
Lau and Schumacher, 34, through jail officials, declined a request from The Associated Press for interviews Wednesday. On Thursday, jail officials said Ramirez could not see visitors.
Police declined to comment on the accusations made by Lau.
Court-appointed attorneys for the three defendants were out of the office and unable to immediately return phone messages from The AP on Thursday.
Ramirez had been the boy's legal guardian after child welfare officials took him from his abusive father three or four years ago. According to court documents, she pleaded no contest to one felony count of beating the boy.
Authorities had earlier identified Ramirez as the boy's aunt but said Thursday they had learned she was a family friend he called his aunt.