COEUR d'ALENE - The mother and daughter responsible for one of Coeur d'Alene's worst cases of child abuse were sentenced to five years in prison on Monday.
The first two years of the sentence will be fixed, meaning neither Elisabeth C. Crossley, 27, nor Ruth K. Cassidy, 55, will be eligible for parole until the third year.
"I can't for one minute understand how a responsible parent can let such a situation go on," 1st District John Luster told Crossley and Cassidy before issuing the sentence, calling the allowed abuse on the 2-year-old twin girls "mind boggling."
"I think you made a conscious choice," he said to both.
Crossley sobbed as she and Cassidy were handcuffed and ushered from the courtroom.
"I wish I'd done more," Crossley told the judge about needing help for her social anxieties and mental health issues as she tried to raise the girls. "I wish that so much."
The twin girls were found Dec. 5, 2010, living in the filthiest conditions Coeur d'Alene police have ever witnessed, according to the department's reports. A passerby alerted police to the danger at an apartment on the 1200 block of North Lincoln Way in Coeur d'Alene. Crossley and Cassidy were arrested after the girls were found sealed off in a bedroom, with no clothes, bedding or furniture. The girls were covered in fecal matter, as were the walls and floor of the bedroom. They had bruising on various parts of their bodies and open sores. Police vomited after opening the door to the room, the reports state.
Kootenai County deputy prosecuting attorney Donna Gardner asked for a three year fixed term, stating that neither Cassidy or Crossley showed remorse for the girls after the women were arrested out of "selfishness and laziness."
"I don't think (Crossley) even refers to them by name," she said of the girls.
Defense attorneys Jed Nixon, representing Cassidy, and Crossley's public defender, Craig Zanetti, recommended probation so the women could seek treatment for their mental issues.
Zanetti said that police had been called to the residence at least seven times for welfare checks before the last one, and the girls were healthy. The latest situation was one that "got out of control," he said, due to the lack of her education raising children and the mental health issues.
The stigma attached to Crossley since the case has been punishment in its own right, he said, including hearing taunts of "sick, evil bitch" from people since she was released from Kootenai County jail on her own recognizance after pleading guilty earlier this year.
"(Crossley) only wanted the best for the girls," Zanetti said. "She just couldn't provide the means for it."
Crossley, who had last been working at Center Partners, pleaded guilty in January to one count of felony injury to a child. Cassidy entered an Alford plea to one count of felony injury to a child earlier that month. With that plea, she didn't admit guilt but acknowledged prosecutors have enough evidence to get a conviction.
"We never meant to hurt them," Cassidy told the judge. "I swear we never meant to hurt them."
But Luster issued the sentence as a way for society to impose punishment. The victims, who are recovering but whose long-term effects from the case are yet to be determined, can't speak for themselves so it's up to the court to speak for them, the judge said of his sentence. He read pieces of the police report for the court, calling the case abuse as much as it was neglect, and said the women's concern for their own fate while they addressed the court was more apparent than their concern for the girls.
The twins were not in the courtroom Monday.
"Society has a vested interest in the victims," the judge said in response to Nixon raising concerns about news coverage of the case that called it one of the worst child abuse cases here. "I think society looks to the court to impose some measurable justice."
Both women faced 10 years in prison.
The Sacramento, Calif., man who believes he's the father, 41-year-old Scott Lewis Crossley, is getting a paternity test, according to a Feb. 1 Press article. He said he was led to believe, until just recently, that another man was the girls' father. The Crossleys were married for several years and lived together in California and Texas. They have been separated, but Elisabeth filed for divorce in August, the article states.