Ex-wife of NJ man accused of impregnating daughters describes descent into insults, beatings

By Samantha Henry, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ex-wife describes descent in NJ incest rape trial

PATERSON, N.J. — The former wife of a man accused of raping and impregnating his daughters described their relationship Tuesday as a “first love” that descended into insults, beatings and a grip that prevented her from leaving the house to give birth or send the children to school.

Although their first two children were born in hospitals, the husband became increasingly paranoid about doctors and vaccinations, eventually prohibiting her from any pre- or postnatal care, the wife testified as the first witness in his sexual assault trial.

After she defied him by sneaking one newborn to a pediatrician for shots, he beat her and dangled their baby by an arm, dislocating the shoulder, she testified. By the time she was pregnant with their third child, her husband insisted on delivering the baby — and all future children — at home, she said.

“There were times there wasn’t any physical assault — for a month or two — and I would wonder what I was doing right,” the woman testified. “I never knew what would trigger it; every day I never knew: Is this a day I would get beaten or the kids would get beaten?”

The man, who was arrested in 2006 and ruled competent to stand trial this year, has pleaded not guilty to 27 charges including sexual assault, lewdness, child endangerment and criminal sexual contact. Tuesday marked the start of the first of five trials — one for each child he’s accused of victimizing.

The man is accused of raping five of his daughters and impregnating three, who are believed to have given birth to a total of six children. The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify victims of sexual crimes and is not reporting the name of the man or his wife to protect the identities of their children, who are now older than 18.

Prosecutors said in opening arguments that the man believed God was commanding him to create a pure family bloodline, while the defense urged jurors to keep an open mind amid the “fantastic” details they would hear. Jurors, who knew only that they would be hearing a sex assault trial that involved incest, sat rapt in state Superior Court in Paterson.

The former wife recounted on the witness stand how the pair, now both in their early 50s, met as high school students in the 1970s in Paterson, a working-class city about 10 miles outside New York City.

Describing the man as her “first love,” she said she became pregnant at 17 and married him shortly after their daughter was born. They eventually had nine children.

She described how, as a young couple, their once-playful arguments and mildly physical fights escalated into steady beatings and insults that gradually undermined her confidence.

He also tightened the rules on every aspect of their family life, she said, increasing restrictions on what they were allowed to eat and when and telling her the ultimate goal was to become subsistent on air and water alone. She said he made her refer to him as “My God.”

None of the children attended school, the woman testified, though she tried to teach them at home by creating her own lesson plans. Those born at home had no birth certificates or Social Security numbers, had never been to a doctor and weren’t allowed to interact with other children or the woman’s family, she said. They were routinely beaten for violating house rules, such as opening a refrigerator door, she said.

When questioned by the prosecution about why she stayed with the man for so long, the woman said she had been isolated from her family and saddled with several young children while she was still in her early 20s, with no friends to confide in.

Authorities say the assaults on the children began in the mid-1980s and lasted until 2002, when the parents separated, and occurred at homes in Paterson and nearby East Orange, Orange and Eatontown.

The proceedings were briefly delayed Tuesday morning when the defendant, through his lawyer, accused Superior Court Judge Raymond A. Reddin of taking $100,000 from a New York City lawyer to bring charges against him.

Reddin said the claim had no merit, that he didn’t know the lawyer in question and that he had only recently learned of the case after inheriting it from another judge.

The trial had been delayed last week after the defendant told Reddin he was assaulted by a prisoner during transport. A court-ordered examination found no evidence of assault.

Because the trials will be held separately, Reddin ruled this year that jurors can hear testimony about the home atmosphere but not specific allegations of sexual abuse that pertain to the other cases. The daughter named as the victim in this first trial is expected to testify later this week.

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