Trial on for Texas man accused of starving kids

July 21, 2010 11:43:29 AM PDT
A trial began in Dallas Wednesday for a man accused of locking his girlfriend's children in a hotel bathroom and starving them for up to nine months. The uncle of the three children described the day he and police rescued the children, and told the courtroom they were weak and malnourished.

The uncle, Abner Santiago, said that when the oldest child walked out of the hotel room where she and her 10-year-old and 5-year-old half brothers had been kept, she saw tears in his eyes she told him: "It's OK, we're safe now. Everything is going to be OK."

The man charged in the case, Alfred Santiago, had lived in the hotel room with the children's mother, Abneris Santiago. The two share a last name, but were not married. A fourth child, a 1-year-old girl who was Alfred Santiago's biological daughter, was found healthy and unharmed.

He is on trial on charges of injury to a child and continuous sexual abuse of the oldest child, an 11-year-old girl. He faces up to life in prison.

Police discovered the children, who all have different fathers, after Abneris Santiago's brother and sister-in-law drove to Dallas from the Cleveland area to check on her.

Abneris' brother and sister-in-law picked her up at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress, called for police assistance and then drove to the extended-stay hotel along one of Dallas' busiest freeways.

A doctor has said the children appeared to have been starved and that their condition was life-threatening. The 11-year-old said she had been sexually assaulted, and the eldest son was covered in bruises from a beating authorities said was delivered by his mother's boyfriend.

The trial of the children's mother, Abneris Santiago, is scheduled to start after the conclusion of Alfred Santiago's trial. She faces three counts of injury to a child. Each is a first-degree felony punishable by at least five years in prison.

Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said that Abneris Santiago's mother was granted custody of all four of her daughter's children earlier this month. The girl is now 12, her brothers 11 and 6 and the youngest child is 2.


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