7 Nov 2010

Father sentenced to 3 1/2 years for failing to protect daughter from torture by religious step-mother

The Seattle Times - September 19, 2009

Starved girl: Dad came 'to believe I was Satan'

By Steve Miletich | Seattle Times staff reporter

The tiny, teenage girl stepped to the front of the courtroom Friday, holding a letter she wanted to read to the judge about her father, who was about to be sentenced for failing to stop the girl's stepmother from systematically starving her.

Wearing a black skirt, layered sweaters and dark-rimmed glasses, the 15-year-old hesitated as she stood a few feet from her father, then broke into tears and walked from the podium. The judge, William Downing of King County Superior Court, assured her he had read the letter, which had been submitted to him in advance.

The girl, back in her seat, then watched as Downing sentenced her father, Jon Pomeroy, 43, to three years and five months in prison.

Hours later, the girl and her foster father released the two-page letter to The Seattle Times. In it, she told Downing she was deprived of a normal childhood because her father allowed himself to be manipulated by her stepmother, Rebecca Long.

"My whole point here is the fact I felt Rebecca was manipulating dad to believe I was Satan and that he wanted to believe it," the girl wrote. "That he would believe such a thing was the heartbreaking part to me."

Downing cited the length and severity of the girl's mistreatment in handing down a sentence at the top end of the sentencing range of 31 to 41 months. The judge noted that although Pomeroy had not physically abused his daughter, he failed in his duty as her father to protect her.

King County Deputy Prosecutor Zachary Wagnild had asked for the 41-month term, telling the court that Pomeroy stood by as his wife "quite literally tortured his daughter, year after year after year." He said the mistreatment began as early as 2005.

Pomeroy's attorney, Kevin Donnelly, of Seattle, sought a 31-month term, citing his client's remorse.

Pomeroy, who pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal mistreatment Aug. 31, choked on tears before receiving his sentence, saying he was "deeply sorry" for his actions.

"Nothing I say is going to change any of this," said Pomeroy, who was led away in handcuffs by courtroom guards at the conclusion of the hearing.

Pomeroy wrote in paperwork preceding his guilty plea that he knew Long was disciplining the girl by depriving her of food and water, but he opted not to intervene.

Long, 45, entered a modified guilty plea Sept. 4 to first-degree criminal mistreatment of her stepdaughter.

Long, who is awaiting sentencing set for Nov. 6, entered an Alford plea in which she did not admit guilt but acknowledged a jury would likely convict her if she were tried.

Prosecutors and police have said Pomeroy and Long isolated and starved the girl, who was 4 feet 7 and weighed just 48 pounds when authorities found her in August 2008 after they were called to the family's Carnation home to check on the girl at the request of Child Protective Services. The teen suffered dehydration so severe that her teeth were rotting, according to court documents.

The girl told detectives that she was so thirsty she would sometimes suck condensation from the windows or sneak a drink from the toilet, until she got caught. Then, she said, she was forced to sleep on the floor in her stepmom's room, a heavy dresser blocking the door.

The girl's brother, now 13, and two family dogs were found in good health.

In her Sept. 15 letter to Downing, the girl wrote that she "did not have a father who loved and cared for me."

As a young child, she wrote, she was expected to be an adult and make sure her brother didn't get into trouble.

If he misbehaved, she wrote, she would receive "harsh punishments" from Long, including spankings that would leave her sore for more than a week.

The girl wrote that she was pulled out of school in the fourth grade, supposedly to be home-schooled.

In reality, she wrote, she was helped with schoolwork for only a year. "Then I was told to work on my own, and voila no education at all."

Among other things, she told Downing, she did not have relationships with other children.

The girl recalled that her father said he would never let evil come to her, but then let Long "do her evil works."

"As time went by, I was constantly sleeping, always hungry, and then in the year of 2008, it was beginning to dawn on me that I might die in another year or so," she wrote. "That brought questions to my mind, 'what in the world is he going to do with my body when I die?!' "

On Friday, the girl and her brother sat in the courtroom with their foster parents, who live in King County. The brother sobbed after the hearing, burying his head against a court bench.

Their foster father, Dwight Thompson, 54, said the girl is attending high school, participating on the swim team and doing great.

"She's a vibrant and resilient young lady," he said.

She now weighs 98 pounds and is almost 5 feet tall, Thompson said.

Thompson said the girl couldn't read her letter to the judge because she was overcome with emotion.

"No matter how you cut it, your dad is your dad," he said. "It's hard to come to grips with what happened."

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

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