A man and his girlfriend who prosecutors say kept his sister locked in a storage shed in the Southern California community of Lancaster have been charged with torture and false imprisonment, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Elias Abdurahman, 61, and Sara Kebede Tadesse, 50, were taken into custody after the victim was discovered in the small outbuilding on Sept. 22 by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies investigating screams coming from inside.
The 54-year-old woman was found to be frail, malnourished and suffering from both fresh and old wounds, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. She had apparently been beaten with a cane.
Deputy District Attorney Ricardo Santiago said it was "too early to tell" the motive behind the crime but the victim had apparently suffered about a year of torture and abuse before she was rescued by the deputies.
He said the deputies responded to the home in Lancaster, about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles, in response to 911 calls reporting a woman in apparent distress.
The deputies initially saw nothing wrong when they were met at the door by Abdurahman and Tadesse, Santiago said, but ultimately discovered the shed and the woman inside.
Abdurahman and Tadesse, who were also charged with assault with a deadly weapon and dependent adult abuse with allegations of inflicting great bodily injury. It was not immediately clear why the victim was considered a dependent adult.
Santiago said both defendants, whose court appearances were delayed by the difficulty in finding a translator who spoke their Ethiopian dialect, could face life prison sentences if they are convicted at trial. Authorities did not disclose the defendants' immigration status or country of origin.
Prosecutors have asked that both Abdurahman and Tadesse be held on $1 million bail.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Walsh and Sandra Maler)