ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A woman beat and tortured at least some of her 15 children and forced them to watch as she brutally killed their pets, authorities said in New Mexico, the latest place where the woman and her husband have been the subject of complaints.
Martha Crouch and her husband Timothy of Aztec, New Mexico, were arrested Monday following interviews with a number of their adult and young children living in different states, according to court records. It was not immediately clear if all the allegations made by the children had been verified by authorities.
State officials say documents also point to prior complaints involving the couple in Missouri, Alaska, Kansas and Montana.
Martha Crouch, 53, was charged with child abuse and extreme cruelty to animals. Timothy Crouch, 57, is facing an obstruction charge. The couple has yet to be assigned public defenders. They are due in court Wednesday.
The San Juan County sheriff’s office began an investigation following the arrest of one the couple’s adult children on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Detectives say they uncovered false allegations that two sons beat another brother to death and kidnapped a sister, but heard other claims of abuse, torture and extreme animal cruelty.
One teen daughter told authorities of physical and emotional abuse that had gotten so bad that two of her older siblings took her from New Mexico to Arizona to keep her safe, according to court documents. The teen said after one of their dogs had puppies, the mother “took the puppies and put them into a giant pot and boiled them, making all the kids watch,” the documents said.
The girl told investigators the mother also fed a kitten poison.
She said she was hit by her mother with a plastic cooking spatula for questioning why she wasn’t allowed to go to school. Another, whose age also wasn’t disclosed, said she got pregnant at 14 and her mother beat her until she had a miscarriage.
Another daughter told authorities she was kept in a “fat chain” for three years while the family lived in Alaska because her mother thought she was overweight.
A son told detectives he was “beaten, shot, stabbed and run over by his parents” and “had BBs still inside his arm from when the mother shot him with a shotgun.”
He said New Mexico child welfare investigators recently came to the house to look into allegations of educational neglect but the mother loaded up the three younger children in a car and took them to the Navajo Dam to avoid them being spotted.
The children told detectives the family had lived in a number of places over the years and every time authorities questioned the parents’ activities, they fled to a new place, according to court documents.
Deanna Taylor, an investigator with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, said she received hundreds of pages of reports from other social service agencies in several other states, including Alaska, Kansas, Missouri and Montana. It is not clear what types of allegations were made against the couple in those states and whether any action was taken against them.
Court records show Timothy Crouch pleaded no contest to a theft charge in 1999 in Alaska. A forgery charge in Alaska also was dismissed that year.
Court records show the family had at least one other recent encounter with authorities. San Juan County officials cited Timothy Crouch in May with illegally burning trash.
Court records also show that county authorities’ initial investigation into an assault by an adult son at the family’s home on May 30 came after several brothers said they had been arguing over food.
The son, a 31-year-old also named Timothy Crouch, was accused of pointing a gun at three of his brothers saying he would shoot them. One of the three said the fight started because he was allergic to beef and could not eat hot dogs, an affidavit for an arrest warrant said.
A sister told a deputy there were guns located “throughout the house.”
Authorities also reported finding the body of a dog buried in the backyard that was shot as a punishment to the children.
Martha and Timothy Crouch made initial court appearances Wednesday, two days after their arrests in Aztec.
The mother is charged with child abuse and extreme cruelty to animals on accusations she struck and bruised a teenage daughter, shot the girl’s dog as a way to punish her, and boiled puppies.
Her husband is charged with obstructing the child abuse investigation, a misdemeanor.
He was released on a $1,000 unsecured bond. A cash bond for his wife was set at $50,000.
The local public defenders’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the couple’s behalf.
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