SOUTH BEND — The grandmother of a 10-year-old boy who was allegedly killed by his father earlier this month had her inital hearing on charges of neglect of a dependent on Thursday, says the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office.
Dellia Castile, 35, appeared in court by video conference where a judge read her rights. She asked for a public defender and was granted one.
Read the probable cause document here (WARNING: Graphic descriptions of violence)
Castile, the grandmother of murder victim Tramelle Sturgis, reportedly would pay her son, 35-year-old Terry Sturgis, not to beat Tramelle and his brothers too hard.
Investigators say Castile would offer to do loads of laundry for Terry Sturgis if he would stop abusing the children. When asked by Terry Sturgis which child she was saving, Castile did not want to choose so instead paid the suspect, according to charging documents.
Although it appears Castile would try to stop the alleged beatings and is not believed to have abused the boys herself, the fact she never reported the alleged abuse to authorities has landed her in the St. Joseph County Jail.
Castile was arrested Tuesday and charged Wednesday with three counts of neglect of a dependent, Class B felonies, related to not reporting alleged abuse at the hands of Terry Sturgis against three of his sons, ages 14, 10 (Tramelle) and 8.
Terry Sturgis was charged with murder after police say he killed Tramelle Nov. 4 after a night of reported abuse in the family's home at 1130 W. Washington St.
Talking about Castile's role in the crime, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak said she had a "moral responsibility" to report abuse when there is "suspicion children are being abused."
"She did knowingly place each of these children in a position that endangered their lives," Dvorak said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference to report the charges against the grandmother.
Castile reportedly lived with Terry Sturgis and his five children at their home on Washington Street. A total of nine children and Castile were at the residence when Tramelle and his 14-year-old brother were reportedly being beaten by their father.
Tramelle was found unresponsive and not breathing about 3:30 a.m., suffering from multiple contusions, multiple burns, a severely broken arm and other injuries, both old and new, authorities said. He had bruising throughout his body and marks from a club used on him.
Tramelle's 14-year-old brother also was taken to an area hospital with bruises and welts and a welt on his head reportedly from a club. His condition was unavailable Wednesday.
According to information released Wednesday, two of Terry Sturgis' sons, age 14 and 8, told investigators that there had been an ongoing pattern of severe abuse by Terry Sturgis dating back to and before the time they moved in with Castile on Washington Street in August 2008.
The 14-year-old reportedly told police that Terry Sturgis would beat the three boys -- who included Tramelle -- with various items, including a wooden club wrapped in duct tape and a table leg that Terry Sturgis broke off a TV tray, prosecutors said. On one of those occasions, the 14-year-old was taken to the hospital and received stitches on his head.
It appeared the abuse got more violent recently. The 14-year-old told detectives that Terry Sturgis burned him with various objects. Specifically, prosecutors allege, Terry Sturgis burned the three boys with a clothes iron on the night of Nov. 3. On prior days, Terry Sturgis burned the two older boys on the torso and genitals with a screwdriver that he heated with a lighter, according to the charging documents.
Terry Sturgis is also alleged to have burned the 14-year-old with a homemade torch made from a can of roach spray and a lighter.
Prosecutors said that Castile knew about the burning and would help the boys put cocoa butter on the burns.
On at least one occasion, Castile allegedly had a 17-year-old cousin whip the 8-year-old boy with a belt, because she believed Terry Sturgis whipped too hard and at one point yelled down to Terry Sturgis: "Stop it, you're going to kill them," according to the charges. Sturgis allegedly yelled back: "The kids are going to kill me by making me do this."
Meanwhile, on three separate occasions, police or the Indiana Department of Child Services investigated complaints of child abuse. Castile reportedly never told authorities the children were being abused during the investigations or on any other occasions.
She eventually told detectives that she remembered at least 10 times when Sturgis was going to whip the children.
Dvorak said the case remains under investigation. The other children in the home are currently in foster care.
In an interview earlier this month with WSBT-TV, Castile said she woke up early on the morning of Nov. 4 to the sound of screams.
"I was woken out of my sleep hearing my son screaming his child's name," Castile said. "By me not being able to get around that well, I had my granddaughter, who sleeps in the same room with me, go downstairs to tell me what was going on."
Castile called 911. She told WSBT-TV that said she had never seen Terry Sturgis hurt his children in the past.
"I've never seen anything like this from my son, ever," Castile said. "I don't know what happened, what went wrong, I just don't know."
Terry Sturgis is charged with murder and two counts of felony battery. His trial date has been set for March 19.
Authorities on Tuesday were granted permission by a judge to search the Washington Street home for more evidence, which includes taking additional photos, and seizing items that could have been used in abuse.
Castile's initial hearing is scheduled for November 29, 2011.
Staff writer Tom Moor: firstname.lastname@example.org 574-235-6234Additional information provided by WSBT.