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DA: Stepdad forced Gwinnett girl to eat cat food, drink detergent

A Gwinnett County man has been indicted on 20 charges in what the district attorney’s office said was one of the worst cases of child abuse they’d ever seen, Channel 2 Action News reported. 

Rimmon H. Lewis has been charged with 15 counts of first-degree cruelty to children, four counts of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated stalking. An indictment returned on Nov. 15 details the violent, dangerous and unsanitary conditions that Lewis’ then-13-year-old stepdaughter was allegedly subjected to.

The victim’s mother, Angela Strothers, was also indicted on four counts of cruelty to children and one count of aggravated stalking. 

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The AJC is not identifying the girl because she is a minor and an alleged victim of abuse.

Counselors at the victim’s school noticed she was covered in bruises in March and called police. After Lewis and Strothers were arrested, police and prosecutors learned the abuse may have been going on for years.

“It’s amazing to me how this child survived as long as she did,” Assistant District Attorney Tracy Cason, the prosecutor on the case, told Channel 2.

Lewis pleaded guilty to simple assault, first degree cruelty to children and four counts of third degree cruelty to children in Cobb County in 2014. Lewis got a negotiated plea deal, downgrading a charge of aggravated assault to simple assault, and downgrading four first degree child cruelty charges to third degree. Those charges were related to alleged abuse of the same girl, Channel 2 reported.

Lewis was sentenced to 12 months in prison and 10 years probation, and was released on time served after entering his guilty plea, according to Cobb County court records. After his arrest in April, Lewis pleaded guilty to violating his probation and was sentenced to five years in prison, which he is currently serving. 

Lewis’ Cobb County plea deal included a “no violent contact” order that covered Strothers and her four children, including the girl he is charged once more with abusing. At some point after pleading guilty to the assault and child cruelty charges in Cobb County, Lewis moved to Norcross with Strothers and her children. 

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The victim was regularly locked in a laundry room in the family’s Gwinnett County home, forced to eat cat food and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while her siblings and parents ate home-cooked meals, the indictment says. The victim was only allowed to take scraps from her family’s dinner plates once they were done eating, the indictment says. On one occasion, the girl was also forced to swallow detergent, the indictment says.

While locked in the laundry room, the victim was not allowed to use the bathroom, forcing her to urinate on herself. Lewis made the girl wear her urine-soaked clothes to school, the indictment said. 

Lewis beat the victim with a belt and the leg of a table, leaving scars and bruises all over her body, according to the indictment. On one occasion, Lewis punched the victim in the head; on another, he punched her in the stomach while kicking her in the “vaginal area,” the indictment says.

Lewis forced the victim to take baths that were sometimes freezing cold and at other times scaldingly hot, the indictment said. In March, Strothers found the victim sleeping on a couch without Lewis’ permission. Lewis told Strothers to throw the girl out of the house, and Strothers did so, the indictment says. 

Lewis and Strothers would also regularly force the victim to complete “standards,” which included standing on cans of food while writing sentences and phrases 1,000 times in a row, the indictment says. One of the sentences she was forced to write was “I will respect my father,” Channel 2 reported.

The victim would not be allowed to eat until she finished this task, according to the indictment. Lewis also forced the victim to squat against a door with her head under the doorknob for long periods of time, hitting her with a wooden table leg if her feet moved, the indictment says. Lewis would also punish the victim for having a stutter by forcing his thumbs in her mouth and stretching the corners so forcefully that she bled, causing scars, according to the indictment. 

Lewis and Strothers were arrested in April, after which Lewis was sentenced to prison time for violating his probation and Strothers was released on bond. The pair were charged with aggravated stalking after Strothers gave the victim new clothes in June and relayed a message from Lewis, saying he was sorry, he loved her and he would never hurt her again, the indictment says.

The victim and her siblings are in the custody of the Georgia Department of Family and Child Services. Lewis is incarcerated and Strothers is still out on bond.

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