Abused Children of Evangelical Couple Make Harrowing Claims

By William Dotinga
Courthouse News Service
June 12, 2012

[with pdf]

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge will hear claims that church and public officials did nothing to stop years of torture and sexual abuse suffered by the six natural and foster children of Zion and Glenda Lea Dutro.

Zion Dutro accepted a plea deal to avoid trial and was sentenced to 300 years in prison in April 2011. Glenda Lea Dutro pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 15 years for her role in the abuse.

The Dutros' four biological daughters and three foster children, all of whom are now adult women, say the physical and sexual abuse began in 1982 and continued until 2003. But they say the Dutros continued to abuse them psychologically, physically and verbally until their arrest in 2008.

The women filed their original complaint anonymously in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Dec. 7, 2011, and then named themselves and the defendants in an amended complaint last month. The defendants removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday.

Martha McKnelly, Sara Dutro, Amber Dutro and Glenda Stripes say there are the Dutros' biological daughters. They filed suit alongside their foster sisters, Frances Smith and Christina Moore against Contra Costa County, the city of Antioch and the Calvary Open Bible Church.

Jack Rogers and Tom Potts with Contra County Child Protective Services; Antioch police officers Art Acosta and William Dee; and Calvary pastors Mark Wood and Anthony Lee are also named as defendants.

"Plaintiffs were psychologically and physically tortured over the course of more than two decades," the 22-page complaint states. "Collectively, they were raped and otherwise sexually abused over a thousand times since they were toddlers. They lived in abject fear of their parents. Zion Dutro sexually abused one or more of the plaintiffs on an almost daily basis for approximately 20 years. Plaintiffs were at times deprived of food and water and use of a bathroom. They were beaten with sticks and belts. They were punched and kicked. They were also forcibly sodomized as punishment."

The abuse allegations open with the placement of Smith and Moore as foster children with the Dutros in 1986, when the girls were ages 3 and 18 months old, respectively.

"After they came to live with [the Dutros], they were sexually abused by Zion Dutro and physically and emotionally abused by Zion Dutro and Glenda Lea Dutro," the complaint states.

Contra Costa County and its employees were responsible for the supervision of the girls, should have ensured that they were not being harmed by their foster parents, and could have moved them from the Dutro home if they determined conditions there were unsafe, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiffs are informed and believe that no one from Contra Costa County Child Protective Services (CPS) or anyone else from the county (except for two visits described below) ever visited the Dutro house or met with any of the plaintiffs," the women say. "The county failed to have monthly face-to-face visits with Frances and Christina. The county failed to have supervised visits. The county failed to have any visits at all. (Parentheses in amended complaint.)

They claim that the Dutros' deep involvement in Calvary Open Bible Church, an evangelical church in Antioch, kept the abuse in the dark, leading to a miscarriage of justice and violations of California's mandatory reporter laws.

Stripes says she told a youth leader and two pastors, Wood and non-party Tim Zakarian, about the abuse while attending a church youth camp in August 1995.

"Rather than report this matter as required, Mark Wood immediately informed Zion Dutro and Glenda Lea Dutro about the allegations," the complaint states. "Next, Mark Wood informed a fellow church member and Antioch police officer Acosta about the abuse. Officer Acosta failed to follow his mandatory duty to disclose the abuse to CPS. Officer Acosta instead referred the case to Detective Barakos. Detective Barakos failed to follow his mandatory duty to disclose the abuse to CPS."

A week later, the Dutros allegedly went with Stripes and Wood to the Antioch Police Department for an interview with Officer Dee.

"Prior to conducting these interviews, Officer Dee was instructed not to arrest Zion Dutro by Detective Barakos," according to the complaint. "Both Glenda S. and Zion Dutro admitted to Officer Dee during their interviews that molestations had occurred. On Aug. 17, 1995, Detective Leroy Bloxsom called Zion Dutro to set up a second interview on Aug. 18, 1995 at the Antioch Police Department. During this second interview, Zion Dutro admitted to molesting Glenda S. six times. At the conclusion of the interview, Zion Dutro was let go and not arrested. Finally, Detective Leroy Bloxsom reported the molestations to Pamela Day, a CPS worker, on Aug. 18, 1995. This was the first CPS report made approximately 16 days after Glenda S. disclosed the abuse."

Neither Bloxsom nor Day is named in the lawsuit.

"Mark Wood did not report the full extent of the sexual abuse reported to him by Glenda S. and minimized the seriousness of the abuse being suffered by plaintiffs," the complaint states. "Mark Wood informed Zion Dutro of Glenda S.'s allegations, giving him an opportunity to prepare for interviews with investigators and to intimidate plaintiffs into denying the full extent of Zion Dutro's abuse. His actions were motivated by a desire to spare his parishioner a more serious punishment."

Informing the Dutros about Stripes' allegations before the interview, and interviewing Stripes in front of her abusers, "departed from mandatory reporting guidelines for reporting sexual abuse and basic standards of criminal investigation," the complaint states.

The women say "Officer Acosta's involvement in the church and Detective Barakos's order not to arrest Zion Dutro interfered with the investigation by the Antioch Police Department. Officer Acosta, Detective Barakos and Officer Dee's decision to not immediately report the known molestations to CPS interfered with the Antioch Police Department's investigation of this case and caused irreparable harm to plaintiffs."

The abuse allegedly became worse after the church and city failed to take action.

From the day Stripes told church pastors about the molestations until CPS finally arrived at the house 16 days later, the girls were "isolated, starved, tortured, sleep-deprived and beaten in order to brainwash plaintiffs to minimize and deny the abuse," according to the complaint.

"Plaintiffs were not allowed to talk to each other or to leave their rooms except to go to the bathroom once a day. They were allowed only small amounts of bread and water, and sometimes a small piece of bologna. They were not allowed to sleep more than very short periods of time; they were repeatedly told that they would be split up and never see each other again if they told the truth to CPS about the abuse they endured. They were told that the two oldest plaintiffs would be sent to juvenile hall and that the other plaintiffs would be sent to separate places and receive even worse abuse than from their parents. They were drilled with questions and mandatory answers in preparation for the CPS interviews, and beaten for wrong answers during preparation."

The visit from CPS agents was a failure as well, the women say.

"Plaintiffs were interviewed while Glenda Lea Dutro sat next to them holding their hand and squeezing their hand any time there was a question that could implicate Zion Dutro or Glenda Lea Dutro," the lawsuit states. "The interviews were conducted with Zion Dutro in the house in a position that the plaintiffs could see him watching them. Plaintiffs were terrified and believed from the brainwashing that had occurred that their fate would be even worse if they told the truth about what had occurred. Consequently they lied to CPS about the conduct of Zion Dutro and Glenda Lee Dutro.

"These interviews were conducted in a manner contrary to procedures set forth in regulations and DSS directives. Plaintiffs had very much wanted the opportunity to ask CPS what would happen to them if they had been abused and to find out if what their parents had told them was true. They never had that opportunity because none of the plaintiffs were ever alone with any CPS worker. Moreover, during the interviews Jack Rogers and Tom Potts treated Zion Dutro and Glenda Lea Dutro as the victims and blamed plaintiffs for making the accusations."

The sisters say CPS never returned to the Dutro home after that August 1995 visit.

Stipes' complaint allegedly led to Zion Dutro facing a sentence of probation, and registering as a sex offender, three months later after pleading guilty to child molestation, based on an "isolated fondling of one plaintiff."

The Dutros "successfully concealed through fear and intimidation as well as reckless conduct by the defendants the true abuse that had occurred, including forcible rape, sodomization [sic] and oral copulation," according to the complaint.

Once convicted, the Dutros abuse allegedly escalated.

Since Zion Dutro could not live in the house during the six-month probationary period, he and his wife moved into in a nearby apartment, pulled the girls out of school and kept them in the house unsupervised with little food, the lawsuit states.

"At night, Glenda Lea Dutro shuttled the plaintiffs one by one to the apartment where Zion Dutro furnished plaintiffs with alcohol and molested plaintiffs," according to the complaint. Once again, the sisters say local government agencies failed to protect them from their parents. They claim that neither the probation department nor CPS made surprise inspections or conducted face-to-face visits as required by Dutro's plea.

"Had even a cursory visit been made to the house, the county would have likely discovered, at a minimum, that no adult was living at the house and the plaintiffs had minimal food," the complaint states. "Interviews of the plaintiffs without their parents present would have disclosed the extreme abuse resulting in, at a minimum, the removal the plaintiffs from the care and custody of Zion Dutro and Glenda Lea Dutro."

Furthermore, the women say Contra Costa "should never have allowed plaintiffs, particularly foster children or relative minors Frances and Christina, to stay with a convicted child molester."

They allegedly shared more about the torture they suffered at the hands of their parents over the years, to little avail.

In 2002, when the church was set to make Glenda Lea Dutro a youth adviser, Sara Dutro says she recounted the full history to Calvary pastor Anthony Lee. Lee allegedly responded: "Sins of her father do not reflect on sins of her mother."

Sara Dutro says also reported the abuse to the Antioch Police Department in 2003, but the officers still failed to make an arrest despite her videotaped interview.

Zion Dutro allegedly wanted to adopt several small children from Mexico in 2005, so Amber Dutro called Calvary's head pastor to demand intervention.

The pastor, who is not named as a defendant, told Amber that "God forgives and so should you," according to the complaint.

This same individual would tell an Antioch police detective years later that "everybody knew Zion was on Megan's Law," the women claim.

But the church took a different view when "Amber printed out 200 copies of Zion Dutro's Megan's Law registration information and distributed them to the congregation," the complaint states.

Calling the children's accusations "demonic attacks," Calvary pastors allegedly asked the congregation to pray over Zion Dutro because of the "evil cast over him by the Dutro children's lies and accusations."

The sisters say that they all suffer from severe psychological disorders because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of Zion and Glenda Lea Dutro. According to their complaint, they all exhibit signs of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, Stockholm syndrome, ulcers, panic attacks, vomiting, nausea, insomnia and migraines.

Since Glenda Lea Dutro could one day make parole, the women say they have made inquiries about legally changing their identities.

The sisters' litany of physical damages caused by Zion Dutro is equally harrowing.

"Plaintiffs were regularly battered by Zion Dutro resulting in severe physical injuries including, but not limited to stitches, sutures, broken bones, dislocated thumb, sprains, bruised spinal cord, laceration to head, internal bleeding, shooting pains in abdomen, chest and face injuries, abrasions to face, contusions and lacerations to lower pelvis area and excessive vaginal bleeding," according to the complaint.

The women seek punitive damages for civil rights violations and breach of duty. They are represented by Jason Runckel with O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Contra Costa County, Rodgers and Potts are represented by Edrington, Schirmer & Murphy in Pleasant Hill, Calif.

Antioch is represented by Bertrand, Fox & Elliot.

Calvary, Wood and Lee are represented by Bowman & Berreth.


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