Girl, 10, Kept in Basement by Parents; Neglect and Abuse Reported to DCFS for Over 2 Decades

The parents who forced their 10-year-old daughter to live in the basement of their Waukegan home, claiming she was possessed, have a long history with the state’s Department of Child and Family Services.

Randy Swopes, 48, and Katherine Swopes, 49, were taken into custody July 17 and charged with felony counts of child endangerment and unlawful restraint, according to Waukegan police. Previous investigations of the couple for alleged abuse and neglect spanned more than two decades.

Officers responded to the home about 1:50 p.m. in the 200 block of Liberty Street after someone called 911 and said they believed a person was being held captive in the basement of the home, police said.

Authorities took the girl and her siblings into protective custody after discovering that her parents held her captive in the basement of their home in the north suburb, Waukegan police announced Wednesday.

Since at least January, the girl was locked in the basement at night and had limited access to the outside, police said. The girl was given a training toilet for a bathroom and showered from a bucket, police said. Investigators also believe she was kept away from her siblings — ages 7, 13 and 15.

The parents allegedly told authorities they believed the girl was “possessed by a demon,” police said.

The state was first notified of allegations of abuse by the couple in 1994.

Since then, the department had investigated the family at least eight times, following allegations of neglect, medical neglect, inadequate housing and abuse by Randy and Katherine Swopes against their nine children, according to a statement released by the DCFS Monday.

The deparment received reports alleging the couple were abusing their oldest children in southern Illinois in 1994 and 1995. They investigated the allegations and closed the case five months later.

In 2006, DCFS again investigated the family for medical neglect of their son due to Randy and Katherine Swopes having religious objections to his medical care. The family was given referrals to community providers and the case was closed, the department said.

The following August, the family was evicted and an investigation was opened for inadequate housing. This case was also closed and the records of the case were expunged.

In 2008, one of the Swopes’ sons, then 14-years-old, had surgery for an unidentified medical condition. After the surgery, Randy Swopes tried to mend a wound the boy had using thread and glue.

An investigation was opened and all the Swopes children removed from the home were given over to foster care due to findings of medical neglect and abuse, the department said.

Randy Swopes was charged with aggravated battery to a child and was required to register with the state’s Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry after this incident, police said.

The database is maintained by Illinois State Police and includes the home addresses and photos of people convicted of certain crimes, similar to Sex Offender Registry.

In November 2010, the Swopes had their ninth child and another investigation of medical neglect followed, according to the department. The report was found to be unfounded due to the parents’ religious beliefs.

A month later, the eight elder children were visiting their parents for a weekend and yet another neglect investigation was opened. It was also declared unfounded.

Two months after that, the parents filed a motion in court to regain custody of the eight children in foster care.

The court granted the return of the five youngest children in March with DCFS retaining guardianship, after the foster care agency managing the case said the parents had completed all required services, had appropriate housing and had had successful overnight visits with the children, the department said.

After five in home visits by DCFS, the Swopes were awarded full custody of their five youngest children.

The three eldest children stayed in foster care until they reached adulthood, DCFS said.

Findings that the parents posed a risk to their children, following the sewing of the boy’s wound, were overturned in 2013 as part of a collection of cases challenging DCFS application of allegations of the “risk of harm,” the department said.

After the Swopes regained custody, the department had no contact with the family until this month when all four juveniles in the home were taken into the custody of DCFS, police said.

Police Cmdr. Joe Florip said the case remains under active investigation and he couldn’t comment further.

The parents were ordered held at the Lake County Jail in lieu of posting bonds of $75,000 and $15,000 respectively, police said.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
Contact Us