Three defendants accused of savagely beating and starving a teenager who was held in chains in a Northern California home for more than a year pleaded guilty yesterday in a deal intended to send them each to prison for 30 or more years.
Michael Schumacher, his wife Kelly Layne Lau and the 16-year-old victim’s then-legal guardian Caren Ramirez entered their pleas in court to more than a dozen felonies including use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury to a child.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors withdrew a charge of torture which could have led to life in prison for the three.
“We were always prepared to go to trial,” prosecutor Angela Hayes said. “I am certainly pleased we have come to some sort of resolution.”
A fourth defendant, Anthony Waiters, the couple’s neighbour, has pleaded not guilty. Jury selection for his trial on aggravated mayhem, torture and false imprisonment charges begins next week.
Prosecutors said Ramirez brought the teenager to live in the home of Schumacher and Lau in Tracy in January 2008. The boy escaped the following December by unlocking an ankle chain and stumbling into a nearby fitness centre bruised, emaciated and still wearing a shackle on his leg.
Hayes said the plea deal meant the victim, who is now 18, would only have to answer questions from one defence lawyer instead of four during the upcoming trial.
“It would have been mentally and physically draining,” Hayes said.