A Lexington woman faces abuse and other charges for allegations that she attempted to strangle her children and made them jump off a roof. She also is accused of locking one of them in a dog cage.
Lexington police have charged Cheryl G. Christopher, 51, with first-degree criminal abuse, first-degree wanton endangerment and unlawful imprisonment. Her husband, Elisha B. Christopher, 69, is charged with first-degree criminal abuse because he "allowed another to abuse his 9-year-old child by strangulation and did not report or prevent them from being abused by his wife," according to a police report.
The Christophers declined to be interviewed by the media from the Fayette County jail Friday, said Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, a spokeswoman for the jail.
Lexington police Sgt. Jesse Harris told the Herald-Leader that six children were involved, ranging in age from 7 to 15. He said police began investigating the Christophers on June 15, after receiving reports of possible child abuse from social services investigators.
Harris said the Christophers are not the biological parents of all of the children. He said police have gotten reports that some of the children are adopted, but detectives are still investigating.
Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the couple are not foster parents.
On Thursday, police executed a search warrant at the Christophers' home at 616 St. Anthony Drive. Harris said detectives found evidence that corroborated the reports of child abuse.
The couple were arrested about 1:40 p.m. Thursday at their St. Anthony Drive home. Harris said the abuse allegedly took place at the couple's former home in the 1900 block of Deauville Drive, near Versailles Road. He said police think the abuse has been going on for several years.
According to Fayette Circuit Court documents, four of the children were taken into state custody Sept. 24. The document did not say why.
In January, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Foster Care sued Cheryl Christopher for "reimbursement for monies paid on behalf" of the children while they were in the state's foster care system.
The court file said there were four pending cases regarding the children in the juvenile court system. Those cases are not available to the public.
Jim Menges, who used to live near the Christophers on Deauville Drive, said he often heard Cheryl Christopher yelling at the kids. Menges said he was aware of alleged abuse in September that caused social services to take several children away.
"She just had a temper," he said. But she also had a nurturing side; for example, she took in a mentally handicapped elderly woman who had no place to go, Menges said.
He laughed when asked about the allegation that Cheryl Christopher had forced her kids to jump off a roof. He said one of the kids, a boy, had chosen to jump off a roof with another neighbor.
Menges said he saw dozens of dogs go in and out of Cheryl Christopher's care while she lived on Deauville Drive. He said it was the children's job to take care of the dogs, and many of the family's arguments seemed to be related to the chore.
"She forced them to do some things like that, which they got tired of doing because it seemed like she loved the dogs more than she loved the kids," he said.
Menges said he thought the children were Cheryl Christopher's biological children, though they were not the children of Elisha Christopher. She also took care of several grandchildren, he said.
The Christophers moved from Deauville Drive in January after they were evicted for failing to pay rent, according to court documents.
Autumn Helton, who lives two houses down from the Christophers on St. Anthony Drive, said the kids and dogs would play in the back yard, and Cheryl Christopher would sit on the front porch occasionally. But Helton, 18, said she never saw anything out of the ordinary until recently, when detectives began showing up occasionally at their home.
On Thursday, three police cars and a marked child protective services car pulled up just after lunchtime, she said. Helton said several children got into the social services car and were driven off, but she didn't see the Christophers being arrested.
The Christophers appeared via video Friday afternoon in Fayette District Court for an arraignment.
Neither showed any emotion as Judge Joseph Bouvier read the charges. He appointed the Department of Public Advocacy to represent the couple, who both said they didn't have money for an attorney. Bouvier refused to reduce their bonds "due to the dangerous nature of the allegations."
Cheryl Christopher was being held on a $15,000 bond. Her husband was being held on a $5,000 bond.
The Christophers are scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing.