News Article Details

'The right decision': Ky. supreme court upholds 70-year sentence in child abuse case

Richmond Register - 12/16/2017

Dec. 16--Three years ago, a then 8-year-old autistic girl spent 17 days in the hospital. She suffered from dehydration, malnutrition, bruises and pressure sores. Her body temperature was 10 degrees below normal. She came close to dying, prosecutors have said.

The story of the systemic abuse the girl underwent started long before that day she was admitted to the hospital. The story that came out afterward was one of horror.

The adults responsible for her abuse, her father and his girlfriend, were arrested. The facts of their torture of the child came to light.

The case against the girlfriend, Linda Richmond, made it to the Supreme Court of Kentucky. On Thursday, the court unanimously upheld a 70-year-sentence for Richmond, 37.

Under a plea agreement, the child's father, Julio Valladares, 41, received a 20-year sentence on charges of first- and second-degree assault as well as one count of second-degree criminal abuse.

As agreed as part of the deal, Valladares took the stand in Richmond's trial in March 2016, describing much of the physical and mental abuse of the girl in detail, including the cold showers she was forced to endure.

The ritual happened so often in the household it had a name: "shower hours." At first, the time under the shower was just long enough for a "blast" of cold water, Valladares testified. Then it became five minutes, then 10, until, finally, the girl was spending almost an hour in the cold shower each time, hands raised above her head, with the cold spray hitting her face. Sometimes it hit above her nose, sometimes under her nose. Which didn't matter, Valladares testified. What mattered was that it hit her face.

The torture, Valladares testified, was meant to break the girl of her autism.

The girl was forced to sit for hours writing lines; she sat so long she developed pressure sores on her buttocks and legs.

Most of the "punishment' came after instances the girl accidentally urinated or defecated, according to the Supreme Court of Kentucky decision. She was forced to sleep on the floor, only a trash bag or puppy pad under her. Text messages between Valladares and Richmond indicated the girl had feces applied to her face, and was forced to eat her feces and urine.

The girl was forced to earn her food, and often had it withheld. She became extremely malnourished.

Though there seemed ample evidence against her even before the trial, Richmond did not want to take a plea deal.

In the words of Madison County commonwealth's attorney David Smith, Richmond decided to "roll the dice." It was a bad gamble.

After the five-day trial, the jury deliberated for just an hour, and returned a verdict of guilty. The jury of Richmond's peers recommended a 90-year sentence, 20 years more than the maximum Richmond could receive by statute. The following month, Richmond was sentenced to the maximum 70 years.

Richmond then called foul. Her attorney appealed, stating testimony from the foster mother currently caring for the girl should not have been allowed at trial.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled against the arguments presented in the appeal.

The girl's foster mother testified as to the girl's condition at the time of trial. The girl was 10 at that time, but was learning at a kindergarten level. She was so afraid to have bowel movements that she held it, once for two weeks. The girl suffered meltdowns at the thought of entering a shower. Her foster mother testified that she loved to eat, and became "excited" when fed. She refused to use a writing utensil. All these observations were relevant to the case, the court decided.

One of the arguments in the appeal claimed the woman's testimony amounted to impact evidence, which the court describes as evidence intended to arouse sympathy for the victim or family of the victim. Courts have ruled such evidence is not relevant to the offender's guilt or innocence.

The court disagreed that the testimony was meant to arouse sympathy, stating the woman's testimony was not overly emotional, and her testimony was delivered matter-of-factly.

With its ruling, the Supreme Court of Kentucky put an end to a three-year case, at least in Kentucky's courts.

Richmond is jailed at the Todd County Detention Center, a prison in Elkton, Ky. She will have to serve at least 20 years before becoming eligible for parole, according to guidelines from the state department of corrections.

Valladares is at the Roederer Correctional Complex in LaGrange.

Smith agrees with the Supreme Court of Kentucky's upholding Richmond's conviction and sentence.

"They made the right decision," he said.

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(c)2017 the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.)

Visit the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.) at richmondregister.com

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