Editor’s note: Testimony of the first child witness follows. Timothy and Esten Ciboro foolishly represented themselves in a trial for child rape. Judging by their shocked faces, the men did not expect their victims to give frank answers.
The oldest victim testified for six hours. Her two captors accused her of lying, and demanded that she recite Bible verses. Judge Linda Jennings controlled her courtroom despite the legal ignorance of the rapists-turned-amateur-lawyers.
The horror emerged. Now 14, the oldest victim was moved into the Ciboro household at age 7, when her mother had a relationship with Timothy. The mother left a few years later. The girl started to have wetting accidents. Timothy, convinced that the wetting was deliberate, locked her up and shackled her—often naked—to weights and household objects. The Ciboro men made her sleep on a bed covered with plastic bags and in a chilly bathtub. Finally they chained her in a dark, mouse-infested basement so cold that she developed chilblains. Her cuffed ankle swelled and scarred. Furnishings consisted of two buckets: one served as a chair, the other as a toilet.
Despite extensive trauma, and “Biblical” training to submit and obey, the girl challenged her questioners:
“I didn’t deserve any punishment… I don’t get you.”
Esten, the first to touch the oldest victim sexually, made her perform oral sex on him. Timothy did likewise, and had forcible intercourse with her. The rapes were frequent, and one stretch of basement exile lasted about a year—although isolation left the girl with a hazy grasp of dates.
Sometimes, after raping her, the men rewarded her with candy. In court they portrayed her as the author of her own abuse. This disturbing tactic led the Ciboros to affirm much of her testimony:
[T]hey did not deny they’d used what Timothy called “progressive discipline” that included restraining the older girl with leg irons in the basement.
“When you would go downstairs, were you carried downstairs?” Esten asked the 14-year-old on cross-examination.
“No,” she said.
“So you went downstairs on your own? With someone walking down with you?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“And after you would cuff your ankle, would someone check the cuff?” Esten asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
(Later in the week, Esten included this outrageous comment in closing arguments: “When it came to the supposedly terrible basement, she would choose to go down herself and would cuff her own ankle, and it really didn’t bother me. With this in mind, how can the allegations be true?”)
The defendants tried to chalk their actions up to love, but the girl had none of it:
“After everything you’ve done to me, doesn’t show me love.”
Timothy talked of himself in the first and third persons, sometimes in a single sentence:
“Did your dad act like I loved you?” Timothy Ciboro said to her.
“Sometimes it seemed like that,” she said. “Normal fathers wouldn’t do sexual stuff to their kids.”
The girl further denied the “dad” role:
[…] she told Timothy Ciboro to stop referring to himself as her dad. “You didn’t treat me like a dad,” she said to Ciboro, who is not her biological father.
“You think I like punishing you?” Ciboro responded.“I would say the sexual touching you enjoyed,” answered the girl.
Nevertheless, Timothy agreed to her request:
“I’ll try not to refer to me as your dad,” Timothy said, “even though, like I said, dad doesn’t have to be biological. I believe I treated you just like I treated any of the other children.”
That statement was sickeningly true, as later testimony revealed.
Next: The youngest victim testifies
Propinqua is the Latin word for neighboring or nearby (singular feminine adjective). It is used in law and philosophy, and in the scientific names of plants and animals, such as the native bee Osmia lignaria propinqua.
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