Several members of a Louisiana family are facing federal charges for keeping an autistic relative locked up in a cage and forcing her to perform abusive and humiliating acts over a 10-month period, such as living in a cage outside and eating her dead mother's ashes.
U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern District of Louisiana say Raylaine Knope, 42, and her husband, Terry J. Knope II, 45, conspired to keep the victim, who was referred to as "D.P." in the indictment, as a slave to perform household and yard work between Aug. 12, 2015 and June 30, 2016. During this time, the Knopes and their children, Jody Lambert, 23, and Taylor Knope, 20, also put the victim through extreme physical and mental abuse, prosecutors said.
The indictment says Raylaine Knope forced D.P. to perform various household tasks in her mobile home in Amite, La., including washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom. At first, D.P. was allowed to sleep on the floor of the mobile home, but Raylaine Knope and her family built a cage in the backyard and forced D.P. to live there, only coming inside the mobile home to do housework.
"The cage consisted of an animal pen made out of chicken wire," the indictment states. "A plastic tarp was placed over the top of the cage. Jody Lambert cut three branches and placed them over the top of the cage. The defendants put a tent inside the cage. The defendants also put a bucket in the cage to be used as a toilet."
One night, D.P. attempted to escape but was caught. Raylaine Knope then told D.P. she would kill her if she tried to escape again.
D.P. was then forced to perform tasks that were increasingly denigrating in nature, such as cleaning up a spill with her tongue, cleaning the mobile home with a toothbrush, cutting the grass with a pair of scissors and cleaning out the septic tank without any gloves, tools or protective clothing.
If the housework wasn't done to Raylaine Knope's satisfaction, D.P. wouldn't get food.
D.P. was also subject to extreme physical abuse, prosecutors said. Terry Knope shot her with a BB gun and burned her with a lighter, and Taylor Knope hit her head with a padlock, struck her with a shower rod and punched her in the face. Raylaine Knope also hit D.P. several times.
And on one occasion, Raylaine Knope ordered D.P. to open an urn containing her dead mother's ashes, pour them in to a bowl and eat them with a spoon, prosecutors said. The other members of the family watched and laughed as D.P. struggled to consume her mother's ashes by force.
The indictment also accuses the Knopes and Lambert of forcing D.P. to remove her clothing and make sexual advances to men who came to the property, such as a cable repairman and a relative who came to the house for a barbecue.
The Knopes and Lambert are each charged with one count of conspiring to obtain the forced labor of D.P., one count of forced labor and one count of using force and threats of force to interfere with D.P.'s federal Fair Housing Act rights because of her disability.
Terry Knope is additionally charged a hate crime for physically abusing D.P. because of her disability and one count of theft of government funds for stealing D.P.'s federal disability benefits. He and Raylaine Knope are also charged with one count of attempted sex trafficking.
A fifth relative, Bridget Lambert, 21, was separately charged in a one-count Bill of Information for conspiring to obtain the forced labor of D.P.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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