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In re Christopher C.

February 22, 2010

IN RE CHRISTOPHER C. ET AL., PERSONS COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
CRAIG C., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Anthony Trendacosta, Court Commissioner, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK55261).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzukawa, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Craig C. (Father) appeals from the jurisdictional and dispositional orders issued by the juvenile court. He contends the petition fails to state a cause of action and there is insufficient evidence to sustain the court's jurisdictional findings. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Father and his ex-wife E.C. (Mother)*fn1 are the parents of seven children: a son, Christopher (born in1994), twin sons, William and Kyle (born in 1999), and quadruplets, Brittany, Heidi, Collette, and Wesley (born in 2001). The family has been the subject of 30 referrals to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Three led to Voluntary Family Maintenance Services and one led to a dependency court case in 2004.

The family came to the attention of DCFS in the current case in October of 2008. As the investigation unfolded, some of the children alleged that Father sexually abused them and that their siblings engaged in substantial sexual conduct. One accused his brother of sexually abusing him in Father's presence. The children who did not accuse Father of abuse claimed that Mother physically abused them and coached them to tell lies against Father. What followed was a series of inconsistent statements that left the juvenile court at a loss when it tried to determine whether any of the allegations were true.

In October, after Mother reported to police that William told her that he saw Father and Christopher having sex, officers interviewed the children. William reported that he saw Father's penis and Christopher's buttocks while both were naked in bed. Collette claimed to have seen Christopher and Father "naked under the blanket doing nasty stuff."

When asked whether Father had ever touched him inappropriately, William said that no one had ever touched his private parts. Heidi and Brittany denied sexual abuse by Father; however, Collette said Father touched her vagina over her clothing.

A police detective who was present when the children were interviewed in October believed that Mother was coaching them. Relying on past claims of sexual abuse reported by the family and the subsequent investigations, the detective opined that Mother had a pattern of bribing the children to get them to do as she wanted. The detective noted that at the station the children were more interested in the hamsters that Mother had just bought them. The detective told the social worker, "[D]uring the interviews with all of the kids, they just seemed... disinterested. I would think that children that have been through what these allegations are saying would be withdrawn and concerned about what they were talking about. These kids weren't withdrawn. They just spoke like they knew what to say and they just didn't seem interested." The officer who conducted the October interviews concurred with the detective's assessment.

A social worker also interviewed the children that day. William told her that he saw Father place his penis in Christopher's rectum. He said that Father forced Christopher to shave his legs and wear women's clothing. Even though William had told the police that no one had ever touched his private parts, he informed the social worker that Father had done so. He also accused Christopher of trying "to touch his private places." William said that he really wants Father to go to jail.

Christopher denied Father had sexually abused him. Although Christopher acknowledged that he dressed like a woman, he said that was his choice.

Brittany told the social worker that Father had touched her private parts during a visit which had occurred two weeks prior. According to the social worker, the child "changed her story throughout the interview and took excessive time to answer the questions."

During the December 2008 interviews with another social worker, William, Kyle, Collette, Brittany, and Heidi all disclosed sexual abuse by Father. The social worker noted that when Kyle, Collette, and Heidi were interviewed by another worker in October, they denied being abused by Father.

The children, with the exception of Christopher, underwent forensic sexual abuse exams. The results were normal. Christopher, who consistently denied that he had been the victim of sexual abuse, refused to be examined.

In January, the children were interviewed at the Child Abuse Crisis Center at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. William now denied he had been sexually abused by Father, but repeated his claim that he had observed Father and Christopher engaging in sexual activity. He said Father takes off his clothes and does something disgusting to Christopher. When asked what "something" meant, William replied, "He [Father] gets on Christopher and goes up and down on top of him." William claimed that Father threatened to hurt him if he told anyone about what Father and Christopher were doing. William said he reported the threat to his babysitter, who called an off-duty police officer. According to William, the officer arrived at Father's house and saw Father and Christopher naked. William also alleged that Christopher sodomized him on two occasions and Kyle witnessed one of the acts.

Kyle maintained that Father touched and squeezed his penis. He said Father touched him "in places that I really don't want him to touch." Kyle alleged that Father threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the touching.

Brittany said Father had touched her vaginal area over and under her clothing, which caused her to bleed and experience pain. The evaluator who spoke to Brittany noted she had "a limited ability to provide a coherent narrative [or] minimal contextual details" and that she "required prompting" to elaborate on her brief replies. At one point in response to a question she said, "I don't know the rest." When the evaluator pointed out that Brittany had given different answers (at first, she said Father touched her over her clothing and later claimed he had done so under her clothing), Brittany responded, "Wait. I messed up." She reported that Father also touched Heidi, Wesley, and Christopher.

Collette stated that Father touched her private parts over her clothing. She said, "[H]e touches me hard, and then I [get] blood there." Collette also claimed she saw Father touch Wesley inappropriately.

A week later, the social worker went to the school where the quadruplets attended to conduct separate interviews in a more neutral setting. Wesley said that Mother told him to lie about Father touching their private parts. Wesley alleged that Mother hits the children with a back scratcher and a metal stick that used to be part of a broom. He claimed that on the previous day, Mother hit Heidi on the head with the metal stick. Wesley disclosed that he saw Collette suck Kyle's and William's penis and the three engage in sexual intercourse.

Heidi said Mother "told me to tell them that daddy touched me on my private parts, but he doesn't." She alleged Mother also told William and Kyle to lie. Heidi stated that Mother hit her on the head with the metal broomstick and also abused Brittany by pulling her hair. Heidi repeated Wesley's ...


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