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Originally published October 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 13, 2008 at 7:41 PM

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Carnation couple charged in "worst case" child abuse of teen daughter

Calling it the "worst case" of abuse a detective had ever seen, King County prosecutors have charged a Carnation couple last Friday with criminal mistreatment after police found their 14-year-old daughter emaciated, dehydrated and suffering from severe malnutrition.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Calling it the "worst case" of abuse a detective had ever seen, the King County Sheriff's Office arrested a Carnation couple last Friday on suspicion of criminal mistreatment after police found their 14-year-old daughter emaciated, dehydrated and suffering from severe malnutrition.

King County prosecutors today filed criminal mistreatment charges against the girl's father, Jon Pomeroy, 43, and her stepmother, Rebecca Long, 44.

The couple were arrested Friday evening and released on their own recognizance after a first court appearance on Saturday.

If convicted of first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment as charged, Pomeroy and Long could face three and four years in prison, according to King County prosecutor spokesman Dan Donohoe.

An arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 27 in King County Superior Court.

Police said they do not intend to arrest the couple immediately.

"We have no reason to run out and arrest them," said Sgt. John Urquhart, a spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office. "The judge didn't believe they were a flight threat or a threat to the community, and neither do we."

The investigation began Aug. 13, when a sheriff's deputy went to the house on a welfare check after a call from Child Protective Services (CPS), police said. A neighbor had called CPS "after hearing screaming coming from the house the night before," according to a news release.

Authorities say Long and Pomeroy, a software engineer who worked at Estorian Inc. in Bellevue, had withheld water from the girl as a form of punishment. She weighed only 48 pounds and was 4-foot-7 when the investigation began. Police described her as resembling a 7- or 8-year-old.

Hospitalized two weeks

The girl was admitted to Seattle's Children's Hospital for treatment of severe malnutrition, where she stayed for two weeks.

Her 12-year-old brother appeared to not have been treated as badly; he was a normal height and weight. However, neither child was enrolled in school, said Urquhart.

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The lead detective on the case, who has been with the special-assault unit for 16 years, said "he's never seen a case of abuse this bad," Urquhart said.

According to police, the girl said her stepmother disciplined her by "restricting her water intake" to about half of a small Dixie cup per day.

The girl and her brother "were forced to sleep on the floor in the same room as their parents, and a heavy dresser was pushed in front of the door to keep her from sneaking out and getting water."

That happened after the girl was caught one night sneaking out of her own room to drink water from the toilet, according to police. She told police she feared her stepmother would hear the faucets if she used them. For food, police said, she was mostly given toast.

The stepmother, who did not work outside the home and claimed to be home-schooling the children, also directly monitored her stepdaughter's showers and bathroom habits "to keep her from surreptitiously drinking water," police said. Showers were restricted to every two or three weeks.

The girl told police that her stepmother once duct-taped her hands behind her back and dunked her head in the toilet to discipline her.

Eroded teeth

Doctors evaluated the girl's teeth and found all of them to be eroded and chipped. She told investigators her teeth hurt when she eats, and she recently broke a tooth while eating celery.

Doctors extracted six teeth under general anesthesia and capped the rest. They said the extreme dental erosion was "likely due to the shutdown of her salivary function due to extreme dehydration over an extended period of time," according to police.

Doctors found she has not gained weight since age 9.

Detectives served a search warrant on the residence and found the girl's room had a double deadbolt on the door, indicating that she was locked in the room at times during the day, police said.

They also collected evidence that the family had health insurance and the girl's brother had seen a doctor in the past few years. The family's two dogs were in good health and had recent trips to a veterinary clinic.

Two-month investigation

Even though the children were removed from the home in August, it took two months to complete an investigation before deputies could arrest the parents, Urquhart said.

Prosecutors said the couple were investigated by Child Protective Services in 2005 when the girl reported being locked in her room for extended periods of time. The CPS investigation concluded that the allegations were founded after Long admitted to locking the girl in her room, but the case was not referred for criminal prosecution, prosecutors said.

Urquhart said the girl and her brother are in foster care and doing well. They are now enrolled in school. The girl's foster father reports that she has gained 20 pounds in the past six weeks, goes to a private school, is making friends and does not appear to have behavioral issues, police and prosecutors said.

Grandfather fell out of touch

The children's biological mother and Pomeroy married in the early 1990s in Albuquerque, where he was working for Word Perfect, according to the mother's father, Robert Stokes, 73, of Bosque Farms, N.M. Stokes said Pomeroy was "quiet, and just a little odd."

The couple moved to Orem, Utah, in the mid-'90s and had the two children. The couple separated and divorced while in Utah, and Pomeroy was given custody of the children.

Stokes said he had received a few "nice letters" from his grandchildren in the beginning, but the contacts became less and less frequent. "I haven't heard from him in some time — years," Stokes said.

Stokes learned that his grandchildren had been taken into custody when he received a message on his answering machine from a Department of Social and Health Services caseworker.

"I haven't had a chance to get back in touch," Stokes said. "I'm just sick about this."

"To themselves" kind of people

The house where the family lives is on a cul-de-sac near the north end of Lake Marcel, about 40 miles east of Seattle, between the communities of Duvall and Carnation.

One neighbor, who declined to give his name other than to say his first name was Jordan, said he'd talked to people at the home only twice in about two years.

"They're very 'to-themselves' kind of people," he said. "I never knew they had a daughter," he said. "They just stayed inside a lot. I never heard any screaming. Police took the kids awhile ago."

He said a sport-utility vehicle and a car normally were parked in the driveway at the home, but no vehicles were there today and the house appeared unoccupied.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Carter, Peyton Whitely and Christine Clarridge and news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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