GRAPHIC: Woman with autism kept in cage, forced to eat mother's ashes

Woman with autism kept in cage, forced to eat mother's ashes
Published: Jul. 27, 2018 at 12:07 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2018 at 3:53 PM CDT
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WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of abuse. View at your own discretion 

An Amite woman with autism suffered horrific abuse at the hands of a five-member family, according to court documents.

The family members were accused of the abuse in federal court on Thursday.

The indictment alleged that the head of the family, 42-year-old Raylaine Knope, was the instigator of most of the abuse.

Raylaine has been accused of forcing the victim to do house and yard work in exchange for food and water.

The indictment also charged Raylaine's husband, 45-year-old Terry J. Knope II, and their children, 23-year-old Jody Lambert and 20-year-old Taylor Knope.

Lambert is Raylaine Knope's son and Taylor Knope is Terry Knope II's daughter, according to the indictment.

Bridget Lambert, 21, was charged separately in a bill of information, which accuses her of one count of conspiring to obtain forced labor, according to the documents.

It is unclear how the victim is related to the family.

Court documents revealed that the abuse began in August 2015 shortly after the victim's mother died.

The family and the victim moved into a mobile home in the 57500 block of Rushing Lane. The abuse continued through June 2016, according to the indictment.

The 22-year-old victim was held in a shed before she was moved to a cage in the backyard.

The family members were accused of shooting the victim with a BB gun, covering her with the contents from a septic tank, and forcing her to eat her recently deceased mother's cremated remains from a cereal bowl, according to court documents.

The victim was also ordered to make sexual advances to men in a sex-trafficking scheme, according to the indictment. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said the prostitution plan was outlined by the family on social media.

According to the indictment, the family would threaten the victim with violence so she wouldn't escape.

The family is also accused of holding a gun to the victim's head, holding her hand to a flame, and holding her underwater in a hot tub.

The indictment said the family threatened to kill the victim if she went to law enforcement.

There were 35 "overt acts" listed in the indictment that were reportedly at the direction of Raylaine, according to court documents.

If Raylaine was not satisfied with the victim's work, she denied the victim food, according to the indictment.

Raylaine kept $8,800 of the victim's Social Security payments and confiscated the victim's state-issued ID, cellphone and laptop, according to court documents.

The cage was built out of chicken wire and tarp, and did not have running water or electricity. The cage had a mattress, some personal belongings and a five-gallon bucket for a toilet, according to Edwards. As the abuse continued, the mattress was taken away and the victim was forced to sleep in a tent.

The only time the victim was released from the cage was to work, according to court documents. Terry was accused of ordering the woman to use her tongue to clean a spill on the kitchen floor.

Terry is also accused of smashing the victim's hand with a hammer, fracturing bones, and burning her  with a cigarette lighter. Bridget Lambert allegedly held the victim's arm in place, according to court documents.

Jody Lambert once held a gun to the victim's head and threatened to pull the trigger if she did not obey his orders, according to the indictment.

Terry and Jody were also accused in the indictment of throwing a bucket of human waste on the victim.

The indictment said the victim, who was covered in urine and feces, began screaming while Jody laughed.

Other family members were accused of punching the victim in the face and head and with items such as a wooden board, a shower rod, a metal padlock, according to the indictment.

One of the victim's head wounds was glued shut, according to court documents.

The indictment claims that the victim was also regularly called "stupid."

The five family members were arrested by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office during a June 30, 2016 search of the Rushing Lane property, prompted by calls about a caged woman, according to the indictment.

The case is being investigated by the FBI's New Orleans Field Division, and is being prosecuted by attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Evans.

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