Local News

Aug 11, 2010 10:07 PM by Ariel Wesler

Family of accused calls child abuse charges unfounded

A foster parent from Orcutt and her nephew are facing child abuse charges tonight. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office is investigating reports the children in their care were severely mistreated.

Nine young victims are in the custody of child welfare services. The family of the accused says these charges are unwarranted, but the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says otherwise.

Investigators arrested Bertha Mae Savoy, 71, and her nephew Duane Patrick James, 38, June 30th on six felony child abuse charges. Savoy and james are next door neighbors. The children told investigators savoy beat them with plastic hangers and at times made them sleep outside on the concrete with no food. James reportedly threatened to kill them and bury them in the backyard if they did not listen to him.

Family members say Savoy has been a state licensed foster parent for more than 30 years.

"After they're unfounded, please tell me if there's anyone that's going to come here and say we're sorry. We didn't mean to kick your door in. We didn't mean to scare your kids," one close family member said who asked to remain anonymous.

"We talk to a variety of people in different places at different times. We talk to family members we talk to people outside the family and try to gather as much information as we can before any decision is made," said Cindy Nott with Child Welfare Services.

Investigators interviewed other children who were previously under Savoy's care and they vouched for the victims. The children are all between the ages of eight and seventeen.

Both Savoy and James are out of jail after posting $100,000 bail. The family says the kids have asked to come home, but Child Welfare Services says kids often want to be back in familiar surroundings after going through serious trauma.

Detectives are asking the public to call the sheriff's office with any additional information on this case.

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