HAMMOND, LA — Five family members have been charged with padlocking a 22-year-old autistic woman in a cage for 10 months and subjecting her to horrific abuse that included shooting her with a BB gun, covering her with human waste, and forcing her to eat her recently deceased mother’s cremated remains.
The indictment charges Raylaine Knope, 42; her husband Terry Knope II, 45; and their children Jody Lambert, 23; and Taylor Knope, 20; with conspiring to obtain forced labor and using force and threats of force to interfere with the victim’s federal Fair Housing Act rights.
The horrific abuse began immediately after the death of the victim’s mother on August 12, 2015, according to court documents.
The family also allegedly withheld the victim’s Social Security benefits and forced her to perform slave labor in the house and yard.
Raylaine Knope and Terry Knope II are also accused of attempted sex trafficking and forcing the victim to perform sex acts, sometimes with a jalapeño pepper. They allegedly forced the victim to make sexual advances to several men in a sex-trafficking scheme, according to the indictment, as well as forcing her to take methamphetamines and prescription painkillers.
The indictment depicts Raylaine Knope, 42, as a ringleader of all of the mistreatment, humiliation, and abuse. According to court documents, she ordered other family members to abuse the victim and keep her locked in a shed and later a six-by-eight-foot chicken-wire cage in the back yard.
And in a gruesome turn, Raylaine Knope also allegedly forced the victim to pour her dead mother’s cremains into a cereal bowl with milk and then eat the mixture, causing the victim to vomit. She “vomited onto the table several minutes after consuming the ashes.” Another time the victim was forced to eat dog feces spread on bread.
Terry J. Knope II is additionally accused of committing a hate crime, with prosecutors alleging he shot the victim with a BB gun while calling her a “retard” who “doesn’t deserve to live.”
Court documents did not specify how the victim is related to her abusers, but they are distant relatives.
A fifth family member, Raylaine Knope’s daughter Bridget Lambert, 21, who lived with the family on and off during the time the abuse occurred, was charged separately with participating in the forced-labor conspiracy.
The family members also abused the victim in various other ways, including burning her with a cigarette lighter, throwing a bucket of human waste on her, holding her underwater and and making her do chores to obtain food and water, court records allege. And since they kept the victim’s Social Security payments, she had no means of escape.
The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office searched the property on Rushing Lane on June 30, 2016 after receiving a call about a caged woman.
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards stated that the cage had no electricity or running water. It held a mattress and a five-gallon bucket that the victim used as a toilet, Edwards said. In a July 2016 news conference, he called the case a “real tragedy.”
The victim was taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment, then placed in the care and custody of Louisiana Department of Health’s Adult Protective Services. Four children younger than seven years old were also removed from the home and placed in the care of the state.
The case, investigated by the FBI’s New Orleans Field Division, is being prosecuted by attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Evans, based in New Orleans.
All five of the suspects are in the Tangipahoa Parish Prison in lieu of $150,000 bail each.
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