An Atlanta stepfather was charged with 15 counts of cruelty to children in what prosecutors say is one of the worst cases of child abuse they have ever seen.
Rimmon Lewis, 33, physically abused his teenage daughter for years and forced her into unsanitary and dangerous conditions, according to an indictment returned on Nov. 15, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The girl, aged 13 at the time of the abuses, was made to drink detergent when she stuttered, forced to stand on cans of food in the laundry room while writing out the same sentence 1,000 times, and made to eat cat food, among other appalling mistreatment.
Lewis was also charged with four counts of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated stalking. The girl’s mother, Angela Strothers, was charged with four counts of cruelty to children and one count of aggravated stalking.
Lewis disfigured the girl by hitting her “repeatedly with the leg of a child’s table and a black leather belt,” PEOPLE reported, citing the indictment.
In addition to forcing the girl to drink detergent as a punishment for stuttering, the stepdad also punished her by “pushing his thumbs into her mouth with such force as to split the corners of her mouth.” The child was left with scars in the corners of her mouth.
The child was also forced to stand on cans in a laundry room and write out “standards,” a sentence ordered by the Lewis, 1,000 times. One such sentence said, “I will respect my father.” The girl had to repeat the task on a nearly daily basis.
Counselors at the girl’s school noticed scars and contacted police in March.
“It’s amazing to me how this child survived as long as she did,” Assistant District Attorney Tracie Cason told WSBTV.
The indictment also states that the girl was locked in the laundry room for extended periods of time. She would end up soiling herself and would later be forced to go to school in the same clothes.
The girl was also starved at the stepfather’s discretion.
“There were times she was only allowed to eat cat food, and there were times she wasn’t allowed to eat at all until the defendant decided she could eat,” Cason said.
According to court records, Lewis pleaded guilty to abusing the same girl in 2014 and was given credit for time served as well as 10 years of probation. The most recent charges were a violation of parole and Lewis was sentenced to five years in prison.
Lewis also forced the girl to take baths in extremely cold or scalding hot water and added lemon juice or peroxide to the bath. He also punched the girl in the head, stomach and kicked her in the groin.
Neighbors of the family were appalled by the allegations.
“It’s hard enough to just try and take care of a child, but abusing one? You’re making your job harder,” former neighbor Wesley Jacobs told WSBTV.