By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
And then, finally, Kristen called the child-abuse hotline. The next day, she, Will and Megan drove back to Denver — and Kristen and Will went straight to the Denver Police Department. It was time to speak up.
Detective Phil Stanford wound up talking with the twins. The interview stretched over two days. "The first day, he thought I was nuts," Kristen remembers. "I had no emotions. I was like an empty soul. On the second day, he started to believe."
And then Stanford and another officer went to Irving Street, which they found "uninhabitable and unsafe for any child due to exposed walls and wiring, no heat and open flames coming from the stovetop." They placed a protective hold on all four children, taking them out of the house and putting them in the hands of the Department of Human Services on November 10.
The next day, a therapist interviewed all of the children. The oldest girl definitely showed signs of having been abused and told the therapist about what Apple, the man she thought was her great-grandfather, had done to her. The second girl said that it "was not okay for people to lick your private parts."
Apple — whose real name was Andres Torrez — was arrested on November 13 and charged with five counts of sexual assault.
Eric, Linda and Patrick Torrez were arrested on November 17, 2008, and all charged with varying counts of sexual assault on a boy and girl who had been left in their care by their mother. According to the arrest affidavit, the girl had first been raped by Eric Torrez when she was twelve, and "remembered Eric telling her that he should not be doing it, but he loved her and she was beautiful."
Karen Stillman was arrested on November 26, after admitting to Stanford that the marriage between her daughter and Patrick was a "sham," and that she was aware of the sexual abuse.
Kristen had told Stanford that she wasn't sure whether Eric or Patrick had fathered her children; the police ordered DNA testing. But other than the question of the children's paternity, everything that she and Will had told the officers quickly checked out.
While the DPD and the Denver District Attorney's Office were investigating the crimes that had occurred on Irving Street, the Department of Human Services was trying to decide what to do with the youngest occupants of that house.
Already, it was finding evidence of how the department had failed to help Kristen and Will.
"Denver Department of Human Services has received several referrals," a January 2009 memo noted, "beginning with a referral on December 12, 2002, which stated that Ms. Stillman was pregnant and living with 'Uncle Eric,' who is her legal guardian. The reporting party had concerns that Mr. Eric Torrez was the father of Ms. Stillman's unborn child, due to the fact that he was 'controlling and intrusive.' This referral was unfounded for sex abuse as there was no disclosure of sex abuse.
"On January 16, 2003, the Department received another referral when Ms. Stillman gave birth....The referral alleged 'inappropriate behavior' between Ms. Stillman and Mr. Eric Torrez during the delivery due to the way Mr. Torrez was touching Ms. Stillman. The allegations were unfounded as there was no disclosure of sex abuse.
"On July 3, 2005, the department received another referral which stated that Ms. Stillman was 'raped' by her husband and that Ms. Stillman was not sure who the father was to her third child, with whom she was pregnant at the time. The allegations were unfounded and Ms. Stillman refused services."
"On July 9, 2008, the Department received a referral alleging sexual abuse and domestic violence in the home. Ms. Stillman, who was living in the Torrez home at the time, reported that her husband Patrick was the father of her four children and denied allegations that her children were not fathered by Mr. Patrick Torrez. The children did not make any outcries of abuse, therefore the allegations were unfounded."
Kristen remembers Eric and Linda coaching her about how to talk to the social workers who occasionally stopped by, the city officials who came by the house to check out zoning violations. Usually Eric and Linda stayed in the room when Kristen talked to anyone — social workers, cops, the doctors and nurses at the hospitals where she gave birth. And when they weren't there, their threats were always hanging in the air.
"These people — they should have won some kind of medal for how they can lie," Kristen says. "I'd even believe them, and I know it's a lie."
When DNA testing showed that Eric was the father of all four children, Patrick no longer had a claim to them. Although Eric said he wanted the court to prohibit Kristen from seeing the kids, that request was denied. Instead, the Department of Human Services came up with parenting plans for Kristen...and Eric. "Mr. Torrez reported not participating in any services offered at Denver County Jail," one department update notes.
But Kristen was trying. She was seeing counselors and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. "It is important to note that she discussed her past experiences in a tone of voice that was devoid of emotion and intellectually distant," one therapist reported to Human Services. She sometimes washed her hands fifty times a day. She liked to keep moving. "Another way it appears that she attempts to cope with her unsettling memories and related anxiety is to keep busy in order to distract her," a psychologist noted. "She stated, 'I've always got to be doing something.'"