US immigrant couple detained in 'worst child abuse case ever seen'

Brothers aged 3 and 4 hospitalized with burns, whip marks.

child abusers 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
child abusers 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Two preschool-aged brothers were lying in hospital beds on Thursday, one fighting for his life, as their parents pled innocence in what Jerusalem police called the worst child abuse case they have ever seen. The estranged parents, recent haredi immigrants from the United States, have six other children. The older of the two victims, aged four and a half, was hospitalized in good condition at Hadassah-University Medical Center, Ein Kerem, late on Tuesday after a family friend noticed he was behaving strangely and contacted social services. His mother joined him in the hospital. Then, early Wednesday morning, Magen David Adom received a call from the family's home in the exclusive Wolfson apartment complex in the capital's Rehavia neighborhood, reporting that a three-and-a-half-year-old boy had been found unconscious and not breathing. An MDA team resuscitated the boy after a long struggle, and he was hospitalized, unconscious and in critical condition. Only then was the connection made between the two cases. Police representatives described the abuse as "prolonged and severe," speaking in court on Thursday. Both children had burns all over their bodies. The younger boy, who is still unconsciousness, also had marks indicating that his arms and legs had been bound and that he had been beaten with a blunt object and whipped on the back. Police detained the mother, 38, and spent hours locating the boys' father, also a suspect in the abuse. The father said that he and his wife had been separated for some time, and that as he had been living in a second Jerusalem property owned by the couple, he had no idea of the horrors that police believed occurred in his wife's residence. The children were allegedly cared for by two Israeli men in their 20s; they are also suspects in the abuse. Asst.-Cmdr. Bruno Stein, who is leading the police probe, said officers were trying to locate two more suspects. The mother was questioned for almost 13 hours on Wednesday, but never asked about her two hospitalized sons, Stein said. Instead, he said, she read from a Book of Psalms. The mother did say, however, that the father had been responsible for bringing the two "caretakers" into the house. At one point, she confessed to the allegations against her, but she later retracted her statement. During the parents' remand hearing on Thursday afternoon, the mother's attorney said the confession had been made under pressure. The father also denied any connection to the boys' injuries. But after being presented with a series of photographs of the injuries, Judge Hayim Li-Ran extended the parents' remands by six days and determined that until the children were questioned, only social services representatives would be allowed to visit them in the hospital. The couple's other six children have been put in the care of the city's Social Services Department.