Parents Charged With Torturing Their ChildrenAP , Associated Press
Nov. 25, 1991 10:28 PM ET
JOHNSTOWN, PA. JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ More than three weeks after a 12-year-old girl fled from a house where she told of torture and abuse inflicted on her and six of her siblings, authorities are wondering what went wrong with the system.
''The thing that bothers me the most about all of this is that so many people knew about this, yet did nothing,'' said Detective Richard Rok.
Rickie Jay Gaddis, 34, and his wife, Debbie Louise Gaddis, 33, face charges of raping and molesting two of their children, and beating and neglecting their five other children.
The Gaddises were being held Monday in lieu of more than $375,000 bond. They face a preliminary hearing Dec. 5.
The children - girls ages 3, 5, 8, 12 and 13 and boys 8 months and 8 years - are now in foster care.
Police say the mistreatment included beatings, cultish bloodlettings, exorcisms, sodomy, stretchings, heated needles under the fingernails and, in one instance, tattooing a child. They also got neighbors to participate, authorities say.
Gaddis was arrested Nov. 1, but the case remained secret for two weeks until other defendants were arrested and Cambria County Judge D. Gerard Long lifted an order sealing the records.
According to court documents, Gaddis and his wife began sexually abusing two of their girls around January 1990, about 18 months before they moved into the house where the abuse and beatings intensified and residents in the three- story building were drawn into the tortures.
Also arrested were: William Henry Maines, 39, who lived on the second floor and three juveniles who lived with him; David Groff Nissley, 41, who lived on the first floor; and Robert Mundorff, 29, a regular visitor to the house, authorities said.
When the 12-year-old girl fled to a nearby women's shelter, she told police of regular beatings and at first begged them not to arrest her father. Police said Gaddis convinced his children he was supernatural and could put a curse on them.
''They were terrified of him, absolutely terrified,'' Detective Yvonne Krug said. ''They believed he had superhuman powers.''
They told of satanic rituals, of Gaddis using ceremonial swords to draw blood from adults and children alike to pour on the grave of a daughter killed in a fire three years ago.
The county's Children and Youth Services agency has had a file on the Gaddises for years, and a caseworker recently visited the house, The Tribune- Democrat of Johnstown reported Sunday.
Jim Drapchak, the agency's administrator, said confidentiality laws barred him from discussing the case.
But he also said though it bothers him, his agency, with 25 caseworkers and more than 1,200 cases of child abuse and neglect reported annually, must work closely with other agencies to get things done.
''I never viewed Children and Youth Services as the shining God up there on the mountain protecting kids,'' he said.
A school nurse during the 1988-89 school year spoke to the couple about their children's uncleanliness and finally contacted Yough Services.
Neighbors complained to authorities about loud music and the stench, said Cindy Mulhollen, who lives across the street.
Mrs. Mulhollen's father-in-law, Clarence, takes part in the neighborhood's crime watch program. Police never got past the front door because those inside wouldn't open it, Mulhollen said.
Ben Miller, lived in a downstairs apartment. He said he went with another neighbor to the city's health office three months ago to complain about filth, rats and debris. It had become so unbearable, the gas company wouldn't send a meter reader and shut off service.
A city investigator checked out complaints about the persistent stink in August. He didn't return until Nov. 5. Then he condemned the house.