Kristen Stillman had been on the witness stand for two days -- talking about how her mother had dropped Kristen and her twin brother, Will, off at a house in northwest Denver when they were eight, and how the head of that household had abused them emotionally, physically, sexually for a dozen years -- when Eric Torrez suddenly decided to plead guilty.
The deal? He didn't want his wife, Linda, and son to go to prison.
As detailed in the September 2010 cover story "Spreading Her Wings," Eric Torrez had first raped Kristen when she was twelve and continued raping her, fathering the four children she gave birth to before she was twenty. When she became pregnant the second time, he made her marry his son, Patrick, so that teachers at North High School wouldn't be suspicious. Kristen's mother, Karen, was at City Hall for the ceremony.
Patrick raped Kristen, too. And Linda Torrez, Patrick's mother and Eric's wife, was no innocent -- on occasion, she also abused the twins.
In the face of Kristen's devastating testimony during the January 2010 trial, Eric Torrez pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault on a child, eight counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; two counts of sexual assault on a child, pattern of abuse; one count of sexual assault; and one count of sexual assault, position of trust -- pattern of abuse. (Other charges against him, involving an alleged assault on another child in the neighborhood, had already been dropped because of the statute of limitations.) He was ultimately sentenced to the maximum -- 300 years in jail.
Patrick Torrez had already pleaded guilty in October 2009 to second-degree assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor; he is now a registered sex offender sentenced to an eight-year program. Karen Stillman, the twins' mother, had pleaded guilty in November 2009 to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, and was in prison by the time the Torrez trial started.
After her husband made his deal, Linda Torrez pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; she was later given an indeterminate-to-life probation sentence with a minimum of twenty years. She would stay out of jail -- if she behaved.
She didn't. At a revocation hearing yesterday, the court found that she had violated probation. Linda Torrez, who helped keep Kristen and Will Stillman prisoners in her home, is now headed to prison herself for at least twenty years.
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