An autistic Louisiana woman suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her family members after the death of her mother.
The victim, who was not identified in the federal indictment, was locked up in a cage, threatened, abused, forced to perform manual labor, sexually exploited and was even forced to eat her mother's ashes, reported WDSU.
Five family members were indicted for abusing their 22-year-old relative, according to court documents released by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Raylaine Knope, 42, Terry J. Knope II, 45, Jody Lambert, 23, Taylor Knope, 20, and Bridget Lambert, 21 (above from left to right) were identified Thursday in the indictment. Bridget Lambert was charged separately in the investigation.
Federal investigators said the victim was a relative of Raylaine Knope and came under her care in August 2015, when the victim's mother died. According to the indictment, Terry Knope, Raylaine Knope, Jody Lambert and Taylor Knope forced the victim perform house and yard work for the family.
"The plan of the conspiracy was for the co-conspirators to subject (the victim) to physical violence, threats of physical violence, psychological and verbal abuse, abuse of legal process and psychological manipulation to obtain uncompensated labor and services from (the victim)," officials alleged in the indictment.
At first, the victim slept on a mattress on the floor of the family’s mobile home until she was ordered by Raylaine Knope to sleep in a tent outside. They would lock the tent at night to keep the victim from running away. The victim then slept in a padlocked shed until she was eventually forced to sleep in a cage made of chicken wire.
Court documents allege the victim was required to live in the cage when she wasn't cleaning the trailer with a toothbrush, cutting the grass with scissors or cleaning the septic system without gloves or tools.
Raylaine Knope is accused of withholding food from the victim if she did not complete the tasks.
Additionally, Raylaine Knope ordered the victim to open her mother's urn, pour the ashes into a bowl and eat them with a spoon while others watched. When repairmen or friends would come over to the mobile home, the victim was also ordered to take off her clothes and make sexual advances.
The abuse continued until June 2016, investigators said.
Federal officials said the forced labor, forced labor conspiracy and Fair Housing Act charges against Raylaine Knope, Terry Knope, Jody Lambert and Taylor Knope carry a statutory maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The four also face prison time for sex trafficking and theft of government funds if convicted.
Bridget Lambert could serve at least five years in prison on her charges if convicted, officials said.
(Photo: Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office)
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