Couple in court on 27 child abuse counts

Brutal details in an extreme case of child abuse were revealed in court Wednesday in which a married couple who were the legal guardians of their eight nephews and nieces were accused of using broomsticks, extension cords and handcuffs against them.

Mele Eteaki and Siale Eteaki, both 29, who lived on the 600 block of Warrington Avenue in Redwood City, sat stone-faced while investigators described the variety of ways in which they allegedly beat the eight children. Both defendants are facing 27 felony counts of child abuse-related charges and face 16 to 20 years in state prison, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

The children range in age from three-year-old twin girls to 15 years old. During testimony, it was revealed the twin girls were once allegedly placed faced down in a bed, with their skirts lifted up, while they were hit with a whipping stick.

The size of the sticks allegedly used to beat the children were proportionate to each child’s age, with bigger sticks reserved for the older children, said Sheriff Deputy Doug Richardson.

Sheriff’s Detective Richard Maher said the defendants threatened the children against speaking out about the abuse. During one incident, Mele Eteaki allegedly told the oldest daughter that she would end up homeless if they were reported.

After their arrest on July 15, Siale Eteaki admitted to beating the children after a 45-minute interview with police, prosecutors say.

“We asked him why he did it, and he said it was because of the way he was raised,” Richardson said.

Mele Eteaki has denied her involvement, along with accusations that she regularly handcuffed the children to a chair. Handcuffs were found in the home, which she claimed were used to play games.

All eight children are currently with their grandparents. Siale Eteaki is in custody on $200,000 bail and Mele Eteaki is free after posting $150,000 bail. They are scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 6.

bfoley@examiner.com

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