Girl saved from a life in chains

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The Independent Online
AN EMACIATED six-year-old girl who spent years harnessed and chained to her bed was being treated in hospital yesterday after police rescued her from the house in the distant Los Angeles suburbs where she had been held by her mother and grandfather.

Police in Riverside County, about 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, said the girl was terrified and living in conditions of unimaginable filth. She communicated only with moans and whimpers.

"The room was so filthy that when I stood at the window I gagged," a police spokesman, Perri Feinstein-Portales, said. "There was trash everywhere and soiled bedding and human waste everywhere."

The girl, Bettye Topper, had matted waist-length hair and weighed just 30lb - the average weight of a child half her age. Her chest was wrapped in a nylon harness that was secured to the bedpost by a chain. "The harness was a thick nylon strap, like something you would use on a horse," Sgt Feinstein-Portales said. "The chain was about 2ft long, real heavy and resembled a dog choke-chain."

The girl's mother, Cindy Topper, 39, and her grandfather, Loren Bess, 76, were arraigned yesterday on child abuse charges, and police said they were waiting for the results of physical and psychological examinations to determine whether to press further charges. The girl's condition was described by a hospital spokesman as serious.

The house where she was found was the one rundown property on a street of relatively smart suburban homes in the once-rural town of Norco. Neighbours said they never suspected the horrors inside, but their denials were not entirely convincing since one of them anonymously alerted police to investigate "a child's welfare".

The family had a violent past. Cindy Topper was attacked by an ex-boyfriend in 1983 and beaten into a coma with a hammer. The attacker, who also shot her husband dead, later escaped from custody, and Ms Topper had round-the-clock police protection until he was recaptured a year later.