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5 charged for holding autistic Amite woman in cage, accused of beating her among other heinous acts

The Advocate - 7/27/2018

July 27--The physical and psychological abuse of an autistic woman held captive for a year in Tangipahoa Parish included forcing her to eat both dog feces and her mother's ashes, attempted sex trafficking and numerous beatings, according to charges issued Thursday against five Amite residents in federal court in New Orleans.

When deputies found the 22-year-old woman, identified in the court documents only as D.P., June 30, 2016 she was malnourished, covered in insect bites and living in a 6-by-8-foot chicken-wire cage outside a Rushing Lane home in Amite.

The arrests of Raylaine Knope, 42, and Terry J. Knope II, 45, who are married, and their three adult children -- 21-year-old Bridget Lambert and 23-year-old Jody Lambert, the children of Raylaine Knope, and 20-year-old Taylor Knope, the daughter of Terry Knope -- were announced a week later by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office.

Investigators said the abuse started after the death of D.P.'s mother, when the 22-year-old had moved to a mobile home at 57509 Rushing Lane in August of 2015. D.P. is related to Raylaine Knope, according to court records.

Terry Knope became the payee for D.P.'s Supplemental Security Income payments, which she received because of her disabilities. Before his arrest, he had received $8,796 in SSI payments that he was supposed to use exclusively for D.P.'s living expenses. Prosecutors allege he kept the money for himself.

The family initially allowed D.P. to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the home, but then moved her to a shed or outdoor tent, which Taylor Knope and Jody Lambert locked every night, prosecutors said. In the spring of 2016, the family then built a cage out of chicken wire and a plastic tarp, forcing her to live there.

They kept her there "to maintain control over her and to prevent her from escaping" while they forced her to do house and yard work, prosecutors allege.

If she didn't complete the work to their satisfaction, Raylaine Knope and Terry Knope would not give her food, court documents say.

At one point, Raylaine Knope forced D.P. to dump an urn of her mother's ashes into a bowl of milk and eat them with a spoon, prosecutors said. The family watched and laughed as she then vomited onto the table.

If D.P. did not complete the work, members of the family would physically attack her: Terry Knope choked and kicked her while Raylaine Knope threw canned goods at her, according to the documents.

During one attack, Bridget Lambert hit D.P. on the head with a wood board, cutting her so deep that her blood dripped on her clothes and the floor, according to the documents. Family members refused to take her to a doctor because they were afraid someone would find out they were abusing her, so a family member used glue to close the wound.

Bridget Lambert once held D.P.'s arm while Terry Knope burned her hand with a cigarette lighter as punishment for "talking back" to Raylaine Knope. Terry Knope shot D.P. with a pellet gun at close range on another occasion because of her disability, telling her she was a "retard" who "deserved to die," according to the documents. In a third instance he hit D.P.'s hand with a hammer, fracturing multiple bones.

At other times, prosecutors said, family members held her head underwater in a bath tub, threatened to shoot her if she tried to escape, and dumped buckets of urine and feces on her.

They also forced her to eat dog feces on bread, simulate sex acts with a jalapeno pepper and remove her clothing to make sexual advances towards men, prosecutors said in the documents. Some of the family members forced D.P. to ingest methamphetamine and prescription painkillers, then threatened to turn her in to police for using them if she didn't obey them.

After her rescue, D.P. was taken to a hospital and then later was put in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Health'sAdult Protective Services. Deputies also removed four minor children from the home and placed them with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

Raylaine Knope was indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiring to obtain forced labor, forced labor, using force and threats of force to interfere with federal Fair Housing Act rights, and attempted sex trafficking.

Terry Knope was indicted on conspiring to obtain forced labor, forced labor, using force and threats of force to interfere with federal Fair Housing Act rights, attempted sex trafficking and a hate crime.

Jody Lambert, 23, and Taylor Knope, 20, were indicted on conspiring to obtain forced labor, forced labor, and using force and threats of force to interfere with federal Fair Housing Act rights.

Bridget Lambert, 21, was separately charged in a one-count Bill of Information on conspiring to obtain forced labor, which has a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Raylaine Knope, Terry Knope Jody Lambert and Taylor Knope could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, if convicted as charged, according to a Thursday Department of Justice press release. Raylaine Knope and Terry Knope also face 15 years to life in prison, if convicted of the sex trafficking charges.

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