Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1999

2 Charged in Alleged Torture of Daughter - Court: Her mother and stepfather are accused of rape and other crimes. They reportedly treated her as a family slave for years
By Richard Winton, Special to The Times

Prosecutors charged an El Monte woman's stepfather and mother Friday with several felonies--including rape and torture--for inflicting years of physical abuse on her while they kept her out of school.

Tito Dominguez, 56, is charged with five counts of rape, two counts of oral copulation, felony child endangerment and conspiracy to commit child endangerment. He faces up to 60 years in prison.

Prosecutors also charged Maria Carmen Salcedo, 41, of Colton with torture, felony child endangerment, conspiracy to commit child endangerment and witness intimidation--crimes that could lead to a life sentence.

Arrest warrants were issued for the couple. Authorities were searching for Salcedo late Friday, and prosecutors said they will seek to extradite Dominguez from Texas, where he is thought to be living.

The charges follow a recent Times article detailing accusations that Salcedo and Dominguez treated their slightly mentally retarded daughter, Melissa, like the family slave. They never enrolled her in school, forcing her instead to perform household chores, endure persistent beatings and hide in a closet when strangers came around so she would not be discovered, interviews and Juvenile Court documents showed.

The felony complaint filed Friday detailed the abuse Melissa, referred to as "Jane Doe," suffered over the years: a broken arm, broken teeth, a burned hand, beatings with a belt buckle, being forced to drink out of the toilet, lack of education, and denial of medical and dental treatment.

"This was a case of torture," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Christine S. Weiss, who is pressing the case in the Rio Hondo Municipal Court in El Monte.

"We are eager to get this matter to trial so we can close this chapter of the victim's ordeal and continue the healing process that has already begun," Weiss said.

Prosecutors filed the charges at the request of El Monte police after extensive interviews with Melissa in recent weeks.

"They did wrong to me and they'll now pay for it," Melissa said in an interview with The Times after being told that her stepfather and mother had been charged. She now lives with her half sister, Gloria, attends a special school in Alhambra and is learning to read and write.

Melissa, 19, was rescued after Gloria and another half sister--both of whom had left the family home--went to El Monte police two years ago with allegations that Dominguez sexually abused them as children.

Police arrested Dominguez in April 1997, and the same day social workers seized Melissa and seven other children living in the home.

Dominguez was released and left the state after prosecutors determined that they had insufficient evidence. But after inquiries by The Times, El Monte police renewed their investigation last month and re-interviewed Melissa and her sisters.

As a result, prosecutors are charging Dominguez with five separate incidents of rape against Melissa between May 20, 1993, and March 30, 1997, court papers show.

Prosecutors charged Salcedo with tampering with a witness for allegedly telling Melissa in April 1997 not to reveal the years of abuse to El Monte police.

Weiss said Friday that the police investigation confirmed that Melissa was made to do the household chores for the family, or suffer dire consequences.

"This is a start for getting some justice," her half sister, Gloria, 26, said Friday of the charges. "But they'll never suffer as much as they made Melissa suffer."

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