Sixteen children were physically abused and deprived of food by their father, Richard Jay Swank. The fourth child, a boy born around 1985, was Swank’s scapegoat; he was tortured, imprisoned, and sexually abused for 18 years. The children’s mother, Monita Swank, was not charged with abuse. After school officials repeatedly called social services about the children’s bruises, Swank pulled them from school to homeschool them around 1992, although “there were no books or worksheets” and little instruction actually took place. Swank’s daughter Melissa (b. 1982) was put in charge of caring for the younger children; by the time she was 18, she only knew basic addition and subtraction.
Swank was a substitute teacher, public school psychologist, and published author. He referred to the child who was his main victim as an “abomination” and abused him beginning around age 4. Swank forced the boy to spend every day standing in a corner, and the boy was forced to sleep handcuffed to various objects or imprisoned in a box at night. The boy was only allowed to eat table scraps and was not allowed to interact with the other children. Swank constantly beat the boy with a variety of objects and often knocked him unconscious. At one point he broke the boy’s nose, permanently injuring him, and did not seek medical attention for him. Swank also frequently tortured the boy by attaching vice grips to his genitals. When the boy was 10, his father began raping him twice a week.
As each of the children reached the age of 18, they left home and joined the military to escape. In 2005, Joshua Swank (b. 1980) died of an accidental overdose; his father “collected $500,000 on [his] Army life insurance policy and bought a sports car.” The Swanks divorced around this time and Monita took custody of the seven children who remained at home. These events prompted Melissa to persuade her little brother, Swank’s main victim, to report the abuse to the police. He did so in March 2009.
Swank was found guilty of 11 counts of sexual abuse and one count of physical abuse. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Date: March 12, 2009
Location: Victorville, California
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