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Family in 'horrific' Mpls. abuse case had many contacts with authorities

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Jerry Lee Curry and Sheila Wilson
Jerry Lee Curry, 52, is jailed on charges of rape, assault and stalking. Shelia Machelle Wilson, 48, is being held on three counts of criminal neglect.
Courtesy of Hennepin County Jail

The mother of 21-year-old twin daughters who outlined years of rape, beatings and torture in what one official called a "house of horrors" remained jailed after her first court appearance on the charges Monday in Hennepin County District Court.

Shelia Machelle Wilson, 48, is held in lieu of $300,000 bail on three counts of criminal neglect. She is the mother of the twins, one with a mental capacity of between a 3- or 4-year-old and the other with a mental capacity of a 6-year-old, according to court records.

The twins' father also remains jailed on charges of rape, assault and stalking in the case. Jerry Curry, 52, was arrested Feb. 22 after police were called to the family's home last May after one of the twin daughters escaped from the home and reported the abuse. 

The couple, who told police they are also brother and sister then later denied it, also have an 11-year-old daughter.

The house where Jerry Lee Curry and Shelia Machelle Wilson lived
The house where Jerry Lee Curry and Shelia Machelle Wilson lived with their family on 17th Ave. S. in Minneapolis Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Court records paint a sordid picture of an incestuous home where Curry sold sex with his twin daughters for crack cocaine, where they were restrained with chains, beaten with bats, brooms and a paddle and were threatened with death. 

 Police called to home 53 times

But that May call was not the first time the family had come to the attention of police and county child protection workers, according to records.

Minneapolis police had been called to the home 53 times since 2011 on reports to check the welfare of residents, reports of lost children as well as numerous domestic abuse allegations. 

Police made numerous reports, but it was unclear if any of those officers reported the family to county workers, who are charged with investigating child abuse reports.

 Multiple contacts with child protection

County authorities opened and closed at least three prior reports of abuse and neglect tied to the family dating back to 2013, according to a maze of records filed in Hennepin County juvenile and probate courts. 

Despite repeated police calls to the house, Wilson was twice appointed limited guardianship of her  twin daughters after they turned 18. The county was involved because the twins were deemed vulnerable adults. 

A Minneapolis police spokesperson said she could not comment on pending cases. 

In March 2013, Hennepin County social services received a report saying the twins were being abused for lying. Curry reportedly hit one of the girls in the back of her head with his fist. He allegedly banged the other twin's head on a countertop. According to records, an assessment was completed and that case was closed.

In 2014, Wilson was in back in court. This time she requested — and was granted — limited guardianship of her twin daughters. That meant she was legally responsible for their care. 

By 2016, however, someone reported the family to child protection. This time the person making the report said they feared the younger daughter was going to be sexually abused. They also reported the house had moldy food and was filled with dog feces and Curry threatened to use a .45-caliber handgun he owned.

"Reporter said both the girls and their mother were raped and pimped out for crack cocaine for years," the records said. "Reporter said they saw Curry kick, stomp, and punch the twins and their mom repeatedly."

That case was closed Oct. 25, 2016, after Wilson complied with the requirements of her case plan, including passing 16 random drug tests. Curry, the court record said, was in Colorado in a coma he suffered from a car accident.

Another generation of reported neglect

The same day that case was closed, however, a new report was about to be filed with child protection, this time involving Wilson's 2-year-old grandson.

That boy is the child of one of the twins, who said she was impregnated during a rape. 

Wilson took that boy to Hennepin County Medical Center because he had been vomiting for 30 days.

It was the second time in a month Wilson took the toddler to the hospital. During that checkup, a doctor noted the boy had speech and motor delays. But the doctor later told authorities he didn't refer the family to county workers because "Wilson seemed not be purposefully negligent."

But during the next visit, doctors did report the case to authorities. And county workers petitioned the court to terminate Wilson's daughter's parental rights.

In 2016, Wilson again asked — and received — limited guardianship of her twin daughters.

Jennifer DeCubellis, deputy Hennepin County administrator for Health and Human Services, said the agency could not comment on the case, citing the state law. 

"However, we take every accusation of maltreatment seriously and investigate accordingly," she said in a statement. "This is incredibly hard, complicated work. Our teams care deeply about residents' well-being. After critical incidents, we scrutinize our work to review our decisions and look at where practices or interventions could improve."

'I was so afraid of my parents' 

Just months later, one of the twins ran from the home and reported the abuse that sparked the current criminal case. 

Police found Curry and his 11-year-old daughter naked in a room. 

"There was pornography playing, sexual toys and objects strewn about the room," court records said. 

The other twin, who had cuts, burns and scars on her body, was also at the home. 

Officers also found between 600 and 700 DVDs, VHS tapes, a camera and a heavy wooden paddle wrapped in tape. They also found two dogs in the basement lying in their own urine and feces, according to the reports.

Investigators were told by people who had been in the home that they saw handcuffs and chains attached to the bed and "all family members reportedly share a bedroom and bed."

One of the twins was pregnant with her father's child, according to the report. She has since given birth. 

One of the twins said in an order seeking protection that she was afraid of her parents.

She said the last time she was abused was the day police showed up at her home. 

That was "the last time my mom chained me to the door, pushed me and wouldn't give me food. She hits me all the time. She knew my father was raping and beating me all these years. She let it go on," the order said. "I am so afraid of my parents. I never want to be with them again.

"It feels so good to not be chained to the bed, raped and beaten everyday."

Editor's note: MPR News initially did not name the parents to protect the identities of the victims but reconsidered given the public interest questions raised by the ongoing reporting. We will not name the victims.

MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report. 

Correction (Feb. 26, 2018): An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Jerry Curry's age. The article has been updated.