By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Will kept telling people what was happening to them in that house, but no one seemed to care. "Will, he told a lot of people," Kristen says. "I gave up." Instead of talking, she started cutting herself, and beneath the tattoos, her arms still bear the scars of that outcry.
Kristen got her first period when she was ten, and the Torrez family told her she was "now a woman." Patrick instructed her in a new kind of exercise: sex, and he told everyone at school that he and Kristen were doing it.
When Kristen was twelve, right before she started seventh grade, Eric raped her one night when Patrick and Linda were bowling. "I didn't understand what rape was," she says. "Everyone in the house knew what was going on." The weekly bowling-night rapes continued.
In eighth grade, Kristen got pregnant. She found out she was going to have a baby when Eric gave her a pregnancy test. "I was already five months before I even knew," she says. She went to her mother's house and begged for help; Karen called Eric, and Kristen was soon back at the house on Irving Street.
When the baby was born, everyone said that Patrick was the father; Kristen didn't say anything. When she started ninth grade at North High School, she stayed silent. "I seriously didn't talk to anyone," she says. "I did my work, and that was it. Will and Patrick were there, and I didn't talk to them, either." Linda took care of the baby, parking her in a high chair in front of the TV all day. When Kristen came home, she did the laundry and made dinner.
Soon Kristen was pregnant again. This time, she knew what was happening. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I didn't want to tell anybody." She would stop by the program that North had for pregnant teens and listen to the other girls talk, but that was no help: "Everyone was so excited about being pregnant."
She packed her bags, put them on the back porch. And then took them back inside. "Where was I going to go?" she asks now. "Eric was just going to lie about it, anyway."
One day in January 2004, Eric and Linda took Kristen to the Wellington E. Webb building. Her mom was there, all dressed up. "I thought she was getting married," Kristen says. But as it turned out, fifteen-year-old Kristen was the one getting married, to Patrick, and her mother was giving the bride away, signing the form that allowed a juvenile to marry. "They told me to go up there and sign that thing," she remembers. "I was signing my life away."
At sixteen, with two children, Kristen dropped out of school. "I felt there was no hope," she says. "I felt like it was hopeless. I just gave up."
She helped a woman in the neighborhood with her gardening, but she didn't tell her what was happening at the house. She didn't tell anyone; it was unspeakable. She didn't talk about the nights when Eric made her watch him have sex with Linda, when he made Linda watch him have sex with Kristen, when he made Kristen give Linda oral sex, when 300-pound Patrick raped her in the hideous bathroom with the mushrooms behind the toilet and the hole in the bathtub. Someone from the family was always with her, always watching her.
Kristen got a job at Taco Bell — Eric kept her paychecks — but was soon pregnant again. She kept working through that pregnancy, a boy, and then another pregnancy.
It was while she was in the hospital after giving birth to her second son, in June 2008, that she heard that her oldest daughter had been abused — by Eric's father, the man they called Apple.
When she got back to the house on Irving Street, she talked to her five-year-old daughter and realized it was true. "I begged Eric for weeks, 'Can I take her to the doctor, can I take her to the doctor?'" Kristen remembers. "He wouldn't let me. So I figured we had to leave."
She hadn't been able to escape for herself. But now, for the sake of her children, she would do it. Family first.
The escape took weeks of planning. Will, who had managed to leave the house for a job in Byers, came back when Kristen posted on MySpace that things were really bad with Eric. Kristen started secretly packing the kids' clothes and found some paychecks that Eric had stashed. Will and his girlfriend, Megan, used the money to buy a car. And then one day in early September 2008, when Kristen told Eric she was taking all the kids to back-to-school night, they got in the car and drove to Kansas.
They lived first at a shelter, then in a trailer in Paola. While Will's girlfriend watched the kids, Kristen got a job at Taco Bell.
She thinks that might be how Patrick and Eric tracked them down. In late October, Patrick went to the Denver courthouse and filed for divorce from Kristen — and also requested an emergency hearing to get custody of the kids. "Father has the support of his parents and he lives with his parents... Father has been the stay-at-home parent since January 2008," reads the order that the court granted. Patrick and Eric drove to Kansas, showed the order to the cops there, then went to where the family was living and grabbed the four children. They took them back to Denver on November 7, 2008.