ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico couple arrested in an abuse case marked by allegations of child beatings and tortured pets can be released on bond, a magistrate judge ruled Wednesday.
Martha and Timothy Crouch made initial court appearances Wednesday, two days after their arrests in Aztec — a town of about 6,000 people in northwest New Mexico.
She 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 while children watched.
Her bond was set at $50,000, while her husband — who is charged with obstructing authorities’ child abuse investigation — was released on a $1,000 unsecured bond.
The public defenders’ office did not respond to requests for comment.
A prosecutor described the case as “horrendous” because of the nature of the allegations of abuse against both the children and animals.
“This one is over the top in both aspects,” said Dustin O’Brien, the chief deputy district attorney in San Juan County.
The couple is not allowed to have contact with victims or witnesses as a condition of their release. A spokesman for the Children, Youth and Families Department said youth in the family were in protective study.
Court records show the Crouch family had several encounters with law enforcement in the weeks leading up to the arrests, including a visit from an investigator from CYFD and the arrest of one of the couple’s adult children on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
The child welfare visit was in response to a report that four of the couple’s 15 children were victims of educational neglect, according to a son interviewed by police.
Sheriff’s deputies came into contact with the family in recent weeks while investigating a confrontation among some of the couple’s sons.
In that case, a 31-year-old son also named Thomas 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.
Authorities said a teen daughter in the home who had spoken to sheriff’s deputies during the investigation fled afterward, with another older brother saying she was afraid and tired of her parents’ abuse.
She was later located in Arizona, where she told authorities in an interview that her mother hit her with a plastic cooking spatula for questioning why she wasn’t allowed to go to school. Authorities said they documented bruising on the girl’s legs.
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.
Other children of the Crouches told authorities stories of torture and abuse over the years that occurred in multiple states.
Deanna Taylor, an investigator with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, said in court documents that 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.
By MARY HUDETZ
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