A Bakersfield couple pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including torture in connection with allegedly beating, burning and tying up a 5-year-old girl.
Jesse Joe Brown and Virginia Susanna Rodriguez are the father and stepmother of the victim, according to police reports filed in court. Police said the child was unconscious and had suffered numerous injuries when officers arrived at a residence in the 200 block of Cedar Street early Sunday morning.
The girl -- severely malnourished and weighing only 25 pounds -- went into cardiac arrest on the way to Mercy Hospital, the reports say. She was transferred to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera and remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Doctors discovered injuries covering her body, including swelling to her head and bruises in various stages of healing. The reports say a doctor told police the injuries appeared to have been inflicted over a period of time.
The doctor said round lesions 7 to 8 millimeters in diameter were consistent with cigarette burns, the reports say. The doctor told police it was his opinion the girl had been tortured.
Brown, 31, and Rodriguez, 34, admitted to using shoelaces and elastic bandages to tie the girl's wrists and ankles, according to the reports. They told police they did this to prevent the girl from wandering the house at night.
Both Brown and Rodriguez wore paper clothing in court, an indication they're on suicide watch. In addition to torture and child abuse charges, Brown is also charged with attempted murder.
Deputy District Attorney David Zulfa asked Judge H.A. "Skip" Staley to set bail at $2 million for Brown and $1 million for Rodriguez because of the seriousness of the charges. Staley decided to stick with the set bail schedule of $800,000 for Brown and $300,000 for Rodriguez.
Benjamin R. Greene, attorney for Brown, said he was pleased Staley kept bail at a reasonable amount.
"(Brown) wants everyone to know he's completely innocent and looks forward to being acquitted at trial," Greene said.
Rodriguez will be represented by an attorney from the Kern County Bar Association's Indigent Defense Program.
Their next court hearing is scheduled for March 10.