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Mpls. man accused of chaining, starving, and sexually abusing twin daughters

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Updated: 8 p.m. | Posted: 9:05 a.m.

A 51-year-old Minneapolis man has been accused of assaulting, stalking, raping and abusing his twin daughters who have developmental disabilities.

The charges filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court say police were called to the family's home in April 2017 to investigate a domestic assault complaint. 

Investigators say interviews with the family's 21-year-old daughters revealed they had been repeatedly injured, chained by their ankles to a door, refused food and beaten with paddles and clubs — assaults that nearly severed one victim's ear and left her blind in one eye. Results of a forensic examination found the women's injuries consistent with torture.

Police say one daughter told investigators that her father had raped her and she was pregnant with his child. The criminal complaint says she gave birth to a girl in October, and DNA testing indicated her father was a likely father of that child. Police removed her and another younger girl from the family's south Minneapolis home. The other twin daughter was found at a Minneapolis homeless shelter.

The father made his first court appearance Thursday. A public defender told the judge that the man is on Social Security and has mental disabilities.

The criminal complaint says the father and his wife had petitioned for and been granted guardianship of their twin daughters in 2014, and had the guardianship renewed in 2016. One of the women was found to have the intellectual skills and behavior of a 7-year-old. The other twin had a less severe disability, but an assessment found she wasn't capable of living independently.

Police also interviewed the family's third daughter, now 11, who didn't show any signs of abuse. But the complaint against her father says she told investigators she'd been assaulted previously with a golf club, that she'd witnessed assaults against her sisters and had even been ordered to assault them herself.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters Thursday the case is as horrifying as anything he's seen as the county's top prosecutor.

"We had to act methodically and carefully to sift through what was happening in this house of horrors," Freeman said. "This is a very complex and complicated case."

Prosecutors in Minneapolis have also filed child neglect charges against the mother of the daughters on Thursday for allegedly failing to protect the vulnerable adults plus another daughter. 

Police are still trying to find the 48-year-old mother.

"It's pretty clear that these twin girls who were vulnerable adults had some limited capacity to communicate," Freeman said. "I'm quite convinced at the threat of serious violence that these two young women were told to deny any wrongdoing was occurring."

When asked why it took nine months to charge the couple, Freeman said it was a complex case and that investigators were combing through medical records and also conducting DNA tests proving the father had a child with one of the twins. Freeman added there wasn't evidence the father was a threat to the public.    

"The people he had harmed were all away from him and out of harm's way," he said.

The father is being held in the Hennepin County jail with bail set at $750,000. Freeman says prosecutors will seek similar bail for his wife. 

Note: MPR News generally does not identify suspects by name if doing so might help identify a victim of a sexual assault.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.