One true saga of sacrifice, life beyond, and God’s perfect will.
A story of true child torture, one woman's will to sacrifice for this child's life, and how all things work together for good.
True EventsPart 1:
I was merely 21 years old back in 1988. I was a small figured, blonde haired, blue eyed beauty, but ignorant of my looks and youth. I was also the single mother of two little toe head children, Heather 4, and Scotty 3. I lived in the low-income apartments in a small town. There wasn’t much crime, but there was always something happening at Sunridge Quarters.
One particular crisis that I had been trying to deal with was the flagrant child abuse of a two year old little girl who lived across the way. The real father, only 20, was given custody of the product of a one night- stand, by her mother who wanted to live a little. Chuck, was married to a 17-year-old girl, Cathy, who was pregnant by someone else. I told you this it was in intriguing place to live, didn’t I? Chuck and Cathy had a roommate, my baby-sitter for my College classes, Tina.
Chuck, Cathy, Tina, and little Layla all lived together in a small apartment across the way with no electricity. Chuck and Cathy’s treatment of little Layla was a taboo subject; quietly my heart broke every day as I watched the helpless child decline in horror.
I made fake friends with Chuck and Cathy so that they would visit me often with Layla and I could protect her with my mere presence. For Chuck and Cathy would not do anything too obvious in front of me. However, I witnessed enough to warrant a desperate call to Social Services several times.
When the gruesome twosome would visit my home with Layla, I was often lucky to get to be alone with catatonic little 'Sybil'. Sometimes I would treasure the precious moments I could spend with her while I french braiding her hair. I would gently brush her auburn locks and whisper words of love and encouragement to her from my heart.
I knew that this child was disciplined in many ways. She would be denied ALL her toys for playing to happily in the house. For potty training they gave two-year-old little Layla cold showers till she was numb, then make her run in circles in the living room naked. Her frozen legs could not coordinate and she would fall. They would laugh and kick her frigid body. Much of this I did not discover until later, but the torture of Layla was evident not only in her rigid mental state, but in sly ways Cathy would speak at her.
Another torture, which all came out later, was putting little Layla in the dark bathroom (due to the lack of electricity in the apartment), making her lie down on the cold tub floor. Then they would turn the cold water on low. They would plug up the tub and leave her alone in the cold dark water in the bathroom with the door shut. As the water slowly rose, they would suddenly open the door and jump at her. If she flinched….they would empty the tub and start all over again. This would continue for hours.
One day when they arrived, my little Layla had scratches on her face. I asked what happened in a non-threatening way. The only words that come from her mouth was ‘kitty…kitty’. It was a rehearsed response, non-spontaneous, with no other utterances. Later I found that Chuck and Cathy had devised a new torture of starving her for 24 hours then eating a sandwich in front of her, while she was seated at the kitchen table. Layla accidentally licked her lips and Cathy clawed her face and told her not to move. It was in-human torture of a precious baby girl. I knew it was happening and felt entirely helpless.
I often allowed Cathy, Tina, and Layla over during the day. They would come over to take hot showers. Layla was always clean and never needed one, for she was provided cold showers and baths daily at home. Finally an incident happened in which I could no longer handle the heartbreak any longer.
Before Cathy went in to take a warm shower in my bathroom, I begged her to let little Layla, who is by now catatonic the majority of the time, to play in my kids toy-filled bedroom with my own little children. I told Cathy there were lots of toys, it was safe in there, and my children would be glad to play with Layla. I told Cathy I wouldn’t leave her alone for a second. Cathy mumbled something about Layla being punished and couldn’t play but I persisted. I would not take no for an answer.Not that any of these things really mattered to Cathy, but NOW she had to let me take Layla in there or look like the MONSTER she was.
I had to literally carry little Layla’s lifeless body into my children’s room and set her down on the floor. She refused to move. Then little Layla cautiously moved her body right next to the door, sat upright and stared straight ahead. I had to retrieve a few toys and Jack-n-the Box from the toy box myself. I and started winding it up for her. Probably a bad choice of toys, but at the time I wasn’t aware of the complete tortures being done to little Layla. I sat one on one with that little baby girl and played with her until Layla finally broke a small smile.
Tears streamed down my face with joy. My goodness, what were they doing to this little Angel? After several minutes of play I had to get another cup of coffee. Feeling all was safe and well for the moment I stood up and began telling Layla I would be right back. Suddenly this lifeless child grabbed my leg with a bear hug grasp and spoke for the second time I ever heard her.“Please” Layla whispered in such a frightened voice….”Don’t leave me”.
I dropped to the floor and held her as hard as I could and cried silently while I rocked her.With in moments her wicked stepmother, a child herself, came out of the shower and our precious, safe, secure moment was ended. Layla was placed back on the couch in a rigid position to stare straight at the wall again. I called my church and asked for prayer for an abused child. The pastor said he didn’t get involved in those matters, as they were a matter of proof. I was desperate.
Every moment was consumed by what was happening to Layla that very instant. I was obsessed and heartbroken. I went to Child Protective Services. This was something that one never does, because of these agencies known power to destroy lives, but this was the exception to the rule. This child was truly in immanent danger of severe mental problems stemming from this strange sort of child torture. AND I couldn’t say that her life was not in danger as well. These people were heartless and could easily kill her in one of their sadistic games. I didn’t even make an anonymous call; I actually went into the local CPS office and begged the worker to help Layla.
CPS belittled my complaints and tried to explain them away. Which is ironic, because today they are so aggressive they take children out of decent homes. Here was a true case of GENUINE child abuse and no one was listening.Later I discovered I was one of the 23 reports into social services about little Layla in just a month and a half. I was desperate to save Layla; I contacted Layla’s real Mom. I couldn’t tell her everything, as I thought she couldn’t handle it. But I was under the impression she knew something was wrong and felt she had made a mistake. Donna too felt helpless as she had some kind of custody agreement she couldn’t violate. Finally that night I had a college class, Legal Terminology and Transcription. While I typed away at the keyboard I was consumed at finding some legal term or measure I could use to help Layla.
Now here I must mention that I was 3 months pregnant. The father lived in Reno, a town near by, but we had broken up after a year. I did not want to trap him so I had not told him of my pregnancy. I was in denial about the pregnancy because I felt so helpless. I thought I was miscarrying anyway since I had been bleeding for a couple of days. This particular night I was unconcerned for my own problems as my thoughts were consumed with little Layla’s life.
I had blood testing earlier that day to see if I was anemic and was suppose to return for a comparative test but because of Layla, I forgot. After I got out of my class, since I had a sitter, Tina (who lived at Chuck and Cathy’s) I thought I would take a long drive and address the only entity I knew who could perform miracles. I got into my car that April evening and turned on the Christian radio station and the heater. I drove around for two solid hours. I cried and prayed to Jesus that he rescue Layla. I prayed from the deepest part of my heart and soul. I wept like a child and offered my own life to save Layla’s. Not thinking of my own children, I literally asked God that if he would take my life in place of Layla’s I would be happy to save Layla’s life.
I never knew that God might take me up on the offer. But all things work together for good in the end. I finally wiped my tears and went home exhausted. I paid Tina and told her to look after Layla for me as I walked her across the path to Chuck and Cathy’s, eye distance from my own children at the doorway. She gave me that look that Tina always had when Layla’s name was mentioned, a mutually sad but helpless look. I watched Tina disappear into the doorway of the home where I knew little Layla’s house of horrors existed.
After Tina left and the kids were in bed, I went into the bathroom. Suddenly I had horrible cramps, a large blood clot the size of a cantaloupe dropped in the toilet. Blood started pouring out of my body, I felt week. I cried for my 4-year-old daughter to run to the neighbor’s house for help.
“Mommy's sick”, I cried from the bathroom door I clung too while the bathroom filled with rich blood, “keep the door open and knock on Shirley’s door till she answers” I instructed forcefully to my young daughter. I heard Shirley answer the door, annoyed as it was so late. My daughter quietly said I was sick so I spoke loudly,“Shirley you have to come help me, I am sick. I need for you to go get the nurse in apartment #19.”
Shirley came and peered into the blood soaked bathroom and left immediately. She came back 3 minutes later with out the nurse. I was upset. She told me she had called the ambulance as the nurse in #19 instructed her. Now, I felt embarrassed, not realizing the danger I was in. I was told later that I was already in shock.
A nice Policeman arrived first and checked my vitals. I became frightened as the ambulance staff entered my home. I felt like running. The kind staff immediately got me into the large cold vehicle on a stretcher. I asked them not to use the sirens as everyone in the apartments wouldn’t hear. I was taken to the local hospital where the future was unforeseen.
“Ma’am, you can’t get up. You have to stay lying down. We can’t allow you to go to the bathroom on your own.” Nurse Jenny told me. I was too shy to pee in a bedpan. Finally I convinced them I was O.K. and could handle going pee in the regular potty. The nurses helped me to the bathroom. The pads they put in my underpants caught the gushes of blood. When I sat down on the toilet in the semi-private bathroom, it happened again. Another cantaloupe of blood birthed from my body, I screamed. The nurses rushed in and carried me back to my stretcher in the ER.
I could hear the nurse calling the Doctor again. “Sir, she is still losing a lot of blood, her crit count from her earlier tests have dropped dramatically. Her crip count has dropped 5 points since she has been here.” IV’s were placed in two spots and I was being given all kinds of medicines and fluids. I was in shock and confused. However I was so naïve to what was happening, I was not afraid.
I thought of praying to Jesus to ask him for help, but in my humble mind, I was a sinner. I had become pregnant outside of marriage and this was the consequence. I had no right to come before God and ask him for mercy. I felt I was not worthy to ask for help for myself. None of the medicines were working as I continued to empty my life fluids from my body. I began to feel lifeless. Someone in a white coat, who I continued to think was a Doctor all night kept coming up to me and looking at the color of my eyelids.
I caught the anesthesiologist, Dr. Hinkley, shaking his head. My Doctor, Dr. Maylee, had heard I had eaten a burrito for dinner 3 hours before and wanted to wait to do a procedure until after it was digested. That way I wouldn’t vomit in surgery. There seemed to be tension between my Physician, still at home on the phone, and the people in the ER. Worried looks became the rule rather than the exception.
Finally Doctor Maylee came in, took one look at me and nervously said they would have to go ahead with a D&C. Suddenly I became very sick and dizzy after Nurse Jenny pushed something in my IV. I was so dizzy and sick to my stomach but couldn’t move. I was horrified. I looked up, barely being able to open my eyes and mouth and muttered….”I …I …am sick”.
The Nurse tried to smile as they rushed me quickly on my makeshift bed into an operating room. “Susie, the medicine we gave you is morphine…I know you don’t feel well, try to sleep”. I felt so helpless and ill. I couldn’t move or speak. I felt like I had to vomit but I sensed I was nearly paralyzed by the medication.
There was a blank spot and next thing I remember I was under a group of fluorescent lights. The sick feeling had left me some and I was able to talk again. Doctor Maylee was between my legs and Mr. Hinkley, in a white coat was in charge of Anesthesia. I hear Mr. Hinkley order Penethol to knock me out, but something told me NOT to be unconscious. I pleaded that they only do a spinal, I had to be awake to save my life. I didn’t know why I thought that, I just did.
I was so cold (my blood vessels were shutting down), that my body shook uncontrollably. The anesthesiologist Hinkley was afraid to poke me in my spine with the numbingly large needle because of my shakes. I heard him order Penethol and I cried ‘NO” just before everything going black.
I was tired of being cold. I was so tired of being scared. I was so tired of fighting something totally out of my control. I was frightened and wanted Jesus’ help, but I had sinned. I was so exhausted I just gave up. I had to trust the Doctor’s and just let go. Doctor Maylee at my feet, Mr. Hinkley at my head with an oxygen mask, I let go and went into a deep dark space.
Warmth, peace, calmness overtook me. I was no longer afraid, or shaking, or cold. I felt free at last. There aren't enough words to express the kind of peace that had overcome me. I went limp, and allowed my self to drift to another dimension. I giggled when I looked down and saw that my doctor had moved to the head of me. They had traded places, anesthesiologist Hinkley was now between my legs shouting out orders.
I thought it was odd that Mr. Hinkley, the knock out, guy was doing Dr. Maylee’s job. I looked down and hazily saw the instruments on the metal tray with gauze and bloody stuff on the tray. Caution had been thrown to the wind, as sterile things weren’t important anymore. I could see the Nurses so serious, with great concern on their faces. I looked down in all my warmth and thought, ‘Why do they try so hard, in the end it is meaningless.’
Then it hit me: ‘OH, my gosh, am I dead?” I pondered. But only peace and warmth overwhelmed me, I was not afraid. A presence came to me. He was a man. I could see his hair but not his facial features. With him came peace and love. A peace that passed all understanding. With him came knowledge beyond my comprehension and comfort just for me.
This entity loved me unconditionally and calmed my fears. I heard the laughter of children in the distance. I thought, I am ready to go now, for I am so tired and we are together now. I asked Jesus, ‘What about my children?’ There was no physical answer; they would be fine if I left. But it was not time.
Suddenly Jesus drifted and suddenly I was COLD, FRIGHTENED, and SHAKING again. ‘IT HURTS, no IT HURTS” I cried. “Where did that man go” referring to what I felt was Jesus.
“Susan, we had to give you medicine to bring you back, you will be OK, you have to be strong. We know it hurts but we can’t give you anything because of your blood pressure. You need to concentrate on your breathing.” Ordered Mr. Hinkley. The Mr. Hinkley was at the feet of me and my Doctor was at my head holding the oxygen tank. The anesthesiologist was doing the clean up of my uterus.
I know now that I had been pregnant with twins, I had miscarried one, and this confused them. The other fetus was injured and my placenta was bleeding out uncontrollably. I was informed later that MY physician had panicked when they ‘lost’ me briefly. The anesthesiologist, Mr. Hinkley, stepped in and took over the procedure.
This entirely explains why I had such a deep bond with the anesthesiologist from then on. I heard my Physician, Dr. Maylee, say something about flying me to the Reno Hospital. Mr. Hinkley claimed there was no time. Earlier, I had refused to sign the blood transfusion sheet. It was the height of the AIDS tainted blood awareness and I was afraid to sign, I had no idea how serious it would become. Even though I was assured earlier that the blood stores were now safe I thought I was airing on the side of caution.
Now, as my lifeless body lay on the operating table, they ordered 2 pints of O+ stat. I could speak, but this time, I would NOT object to a blood transfusion. I had to trust them now. I awoke in the critical care unit shaking so hard. My hands and legs were freezing as ice. My blood vessels were shutting down. I looked up and saw an IV bag full of red fluid and followed the tube into my hand. My hand was the coldest; they had no time to heat the blood. The staff begged me for the number of my Mom and Dad. I refused.
I was too humiliated that I was pregnant and not married. I couldn’t face them. And my mother always misunderstood me. I feared what she might think of me.Finally, as the minutes passed I knew something was serious. I gave them the number to my sister, who had been really mad at me the day before. Would she even come? But the hospital staff said there was no time…and that is when they put the O+ blood into my IV.
For what seems like hours I shook so badly from the cold. I felt so alone. My temperature kept rising, 100*, 101*, 102*, 103*, yet I begged for more blankets, I was so cold. Soon they started taking the blankets OFF of me and began rushing around. “Anti-biotics STAT, she needs ‘something miacin’ right now. "More bags emptied into my frigid body as I shook uncontrollably. I began to long for my Mother. But I knew I couldn’t call her because I had been bad and she would assume the worst. I finally asked the nurse to rub my arm like my mother might do. I closed my eyes and pretended my Mommy was there with me. It was a small comfort. I never remembered which nurse it was who cared enough to leave her desk to give her warmth to me.
I tried to breathe in the oxygen through my nose canilla and breath out my mouth. Hoping to get as much oxygen as I could and get rid of the carbon dioxide. I believe something lead me to do this, as I was ignorant of the positive effects of this. My body was dying. My circulatory system was shutting down. The anti-immunity medicine given to me to stop rejection of a blood transfusion had allowed an existing infection to proliferate drastically.
I hovered between life and death…alone in that room with the occasional comfort of my mother nurse. Once the nurse said to Mr.Hinkley, who kindly checked on me often (kept looking at my eyelids),“Look her blood pressure is up to 50, or something, isn’t that much better?’ He would shake his head, not quite sure yet. I think my breathing was 24 breaths of pure oxygen a minute.
I lay there till the morning light in and out of consciousness. I heard the nurse answer phone calls and say things like,“She is critical, but we have her stabalized...are you family?”or “It’s been a rough night, we almost lost her a few times, but her signs are looking better”.
Finally I fell into a deep sleep. My body and mind exhausted from the trauma. I awoke with the sun shining onto a new bed, as I had graduated from critical care stretcher to a Critical Care bed with a mattress and warm blankets, but most of all a window. I could see the CCU nurse was still only a dozen feet away.
I woke up hungry; it must have been around lunchtime. When I awoke and said I was starving, the whole critical care and ER unit seemed to smile from ear to ear. I asked for seconds on my lunch. The nursing staff brought it to me with cheers and smiles.
Suddenly my mother came in the room. A neighbor had finally called her when she found out I was in Critical Care.I was overjoyed and hugged her. My mother looked at my face and her heart seemed to sink. Did I look that bad? I made my way to a metal mirror and to my horror my face was gray and under my eyes were black. AND this was AFTER I had had 2 transfusions of blood and several hours to recover. I was shocked at the reflection in the mirror. The nurse said I actually was starting to gain some color back. I couldn’t believe it.
Then my mother said it. I knew it.“Well, Susie, was it an abortion or did you try to do it yourself?” My heart sank; it had been a complicated miscarriage of twins. I looked at her with hurt and shock and tried to explain it was a miscarriage gone bad. I don’t think she believed me with her lack of medical understanding.
Afterward I looked at the Nurse and said, “Now do you see why I didn’t want anyone to call my Mother?” Despite it all, I was glad she was now there. Thinking back I should have had my family with me the entire time, despite any minor misunderstanding on their part.
I spent three days in the hospital recovering. The policeman who helped days before onto the ambulence stretcher visited me. One of my neighbors brought my car over so when I was released I could get home….but no one else came to visit. It was OK though. It was a rest. I had been exhausted raising two little kids by myself, then being pregnant and alone….most of all worrying and praying about Layla.
I often thought of her in the hospital bed. I wondered if God had answered my prayers and had CPS rescue Layla while I was gone. It was not so. I repeatedly asked the Doctors and nurses what happened on the operating table. I vaguely mentioned a sort of ‘out of body experience’ but felt stupid. My Doctor did say they almost lost me, but not to dwell on that now. I had my whole life ahead of me. I was only 21 and had two beautiful children. Doc Hinkley, the anesthesiologist came and saw me too a few times. He made it clear that I was confused. He was NOT my physician as I had referred many times to him as. However he admitted that he did care for me a great deal and assisted in the surgery. Of course he actually had saved my life, but he left that small detail out.
I was released and everyone took my kids so I could rest, but I couldn’t. I wanted to do everything. I felt healthier than I had felt in months. I had been very sick for weeks and had just dismissed it as pregnancy side effects. The Doc said that I had lost so much blood that if I had been a soldier in a war, they would have sent me home. He also explained that my out of body experience was just endorphins released before death causing hallucinations. But I know what I felt and saw was real. How else would I have known before I woke up that the Doc and anesthesiologist traded places….I was out on Penethol?
At home, I noticed that Layla was still being carted around town on foot in 80* with her winter jacket on by Chuck and Cathy (they in tank tops). I knew Layla’s abuse continued. At night I would still cry and pray for Layla. I had done all I could.
Finally one day, Chuck and Cathy kicked Tina out of their house. Ironically Chuck and Cathy had been abusing methaphetamines (even though Cathy was pregnant) and had been hanging out with drug dealers around town. I didn’t know it but even the drug dealers saw the abuse and had been reporting them to CPS. The abuse must have bothered so many people because 'narc-ing’ is something against the drug dealer’s rules. So if they were reporting Chuck and Cathy, even they were disturbed badly by this abuse of Layla.
Tina went to go stay at a friend’s house that happened to be one of the drug dealers. With in 5 minutes, these not so law-abiding citizens had not only convinced Tina to turn the abuse in, but drove her to the Sheriff’s department themselves. In a heart-wrenching statement, Tina revealed horrors we still don’t have all the details on to the Police.
Chuck and Cathy quickly gave Layla back to her mother and left the state, just before Felony warrants were placed on the couple. Amen, I thought. The months passed and then I saw something in December on the headlines to the newspaper: Trial to set Precedence in State HistoryLocal couple faces jury trial on Substantial bodily harm to a child from Mental and Physical Cruelty as a Felony!
One day of trial had already passed. I went the next day to the courthouse and told the D.A. of my attempts to save Layla. I told them the day I reported it to CPS that I cried and prayed for her. The DA asked what day that was. I told him April 15, I knew because that night I almost died from a miscarriage/hemorrhage in the hospital. How could I forget that date?
They needed me. The D.A. needed my testimony. It appeared that Cathy and Chuck were denying that Tina ever lived with them. I had known that as fact and because Tina was my baby sitter and I had walked her back to her apartment where she lived with Chuck and Cathy on that date I could prove that they were lying in court.With out me, they would not have been able to prove it. With out me remembering the date SO well, I couldn’t have testified with such clarity!
IT WAS CRUCIAL TO THE PROSECUTION. With out a conviction, Layla would be subject to visitation, perhaps returned custody, and further torture. I testified nervously in front of a packed courtroom and jury. I had to reveal my miscarriage and near death experience. This places my memory correctly as to the dates they needed to prove residency and entirely cooberated dates and abuse events with other witnesses.
After trial I remembered the night I prayed to Jesus that I was willing to give my own life to save little Layla’s life, and I nearly did. It was that experience that helped convict Chuck and Cathy of what the jury found, was a gross misdemeanor. It should have been more. God has a plan, and although we don’t always understand why we might suffer a traumatic experience, everything is tied together to work for good. I saw it here in this case, a year later.
Layla was given to the care of her Grandmother and lived to be happy child. She is my children’s age today. She has NO memory of her abuse, only what little details the family gives her. Layla grew into a very beautiful 17-year-old girl.
Whenever she sees me she hugs me, she doesn’t know why, she just does. And every time I see her a little tear of happiness that she was rescued and is now so happy and pretty. The little girl I offered God my life for…Layla. And Erik Clapton’s song always makes me think of Layla too.
I saw Mr. Hinkley in a bar months later when I was out with a girlfriend. He watched me for awhile as I played a game of pool. Later I approached him. Mr. Hinkley smiled, he was so happy to see me LAUGHING and ALIVE. I was too young and full of life to have died.
I discovered later from a nurse in a private conversation that unfortunately when my Physician, Dr. Maylee panicked while I was on the operating table. The hospital turned down renewing his contract with them. A year later Dr. Maylee committed suicide leaving a wife and young daughter behind. I feel an uncanny guilt about this although it was not my fault.
Later I saw a therapist over my near death experience and Layla’s circumstances and she mentioned something interesting. Why did I feel worthy to come before God and pray for Layla’s life; but when I was in the hospital facing death I did not want to waste God’s time on prayer for myself? That is yet a mystery to be solved. God answers our prayers when they are unselfish and are for other people. Our job is to pray for others…and when we need it, as in the nurses that night, others will intercede for you.
UPDATE: After reviewing this story with my sister the other day some new information came to light. My sister inquired whether this was the time my daughter (then 4) saw what she said was a 'cross' shape on my forehead as 'ambulence' people were taking 'mommy' away. My entire family knew about the time little Heather saw the cross on my forehead, but I was unaware this had occurred until now. I thought I would post this with the story. It appears after praying for the terribly abused little girl and offering my own safety for her, that God was truly watching over me. It renews my faith in God.
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|Reviewed by Lisa Cannons
|Susie, just finished reading, too have lived that life renders me speechless, to have rescued that child makes me dance for joy