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  • Duewa Abeana Lee likely faces at least 20 years to life in prison at her sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 29.

  • RANDY PENCH / Bee file, 2011

    Duewa Abeana Lee, shown with attorney John Casey in a 2011 court appearance, XXXXX xxxxxdabbed at her face with a tissue Friday as the jury's guilty verdicts were read. She has denied abusing her accuser.

Torturer of girl, 12, is found guilty

Published: Saturday, Jul. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Sunday, Jul. 21, 2013 - 11:28 am

She had just finished testifying about how her father's fiancée hit her with a hot metal spatula and forced her to stand for hours on one foot, her hands in the air, when the judge called for the morning recess.

"She got off the stand, and she cried real hard," Joell Reed, the girl's foster grandmother, said Friday after the child's abuser had been convicted of torture. "And we just consoled her and we went and we got something to eat, and she was very quiet the whole time.

"The second part of her testimony, I saw her the whole time – she was looking right at the defendant, and I could tell she was angry, and answering, 'Did she hit you?' 'Yes!'

"And when we went outside, I asked her, 'Did you finally get angry? You wanted to tell her she did this to you?' And she said yes," Reed continued, "and she got strong."

Reed said she saw a power shift in the girl's relationship with Duewa Abeana Lee when she identified the defendant as her abuser. The changing dynamic was cemented further on Friday when a Sacramento Superior Court jury found Lee, 37, guilty of torture and 10 other felony counts for the two months of violence she showered on the girl in August and September 2011.

"We're teaching her that," Reed said of the sense of empowerment the girl has gained since her testimony. "She's going to go on, and all of that's going to be in the past."

The girl, now 14, was 12 at the time of the abuse. The Bee is not naming her because she is a victim of domestic violence.

For Lee, the torture conviction alone carries a seven-years-to-life prison term. Time will be added for the convictions on two counts of mayhem, six counts of child abuse that caused great bodily injury, two counts of child abuse likely to cause great bodily injury and one misdemeanor battery count.

When Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan adds it all up at the sentencing hearing set for Aug. 29, the sentence figures to run at least 20 years to life, a sentence the prosecutor termed well-deserved.

"The degree of cruelty and disregard for a child's well-being was extreme in this case," Deputy District Attorney Nancy Cochrane said in an emailed statement after Friday's verdict.

"Ms. Lee systematically beat, abused and tortured the victim with various objects over a two-month period. Almost every inch of this young girl's body was bruised, cut or scarred by the actions of this defendant. Justice was served today."

Lee dabbed at her face with a tissue as the jury's decisions were read aloud. She had denied abusing the girl. Her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael Nelson, expressed disappointment in the verdicts and said his client will appeal.

"She had a lot of family support during the whole trial," Nelson said of his client, who on some days had as many as a half-dozen supporters sitting behind her. "She was upset, she was crying. She's been emotional during the entire trial. She's held it together for the most part."

According to testimony during the 14-day trial, the victim gained her freedom at a Department of Motor Vehicles office in Sacramento on Sept. 30, 2011. She told a customer she was being abused and needed help, and word got to authorities quickly enough that they were able to remove the girl from Lee's custody that day. Within a week, Lee had been arrested and charged in a 12-count felony complaint.

Authorities say the worst inflictions of violence began after July 28, 2011, when the girl's father and Lee's live-in boyfriend, Wade Curtis Carter, was arrested and later convicted of robbery. Lee blamed Carter for the beatings. Since imprisoned, Carter testified he had nothing to do with the crimes against the child he tearfully described as "my heart."

With six children of her own and pregnant with a seventh, Lee – with Carter in jail – whipped the girl with electrical cords, burned her with an iron, stapled one of her ears, slapped her on her palms and buttocks with a hot metal spatula, singed her with a frying pan and made her stand for hours in a stress position on one foot, investigators said. She kicked the girl in the stomach and inflicted what a doctor described as potentially life-threatening injuries.

In her June 18 testimony, the girl methodically recalled each instance of abuse and horrified the jury with a tale of suffering the DA displayed in a slide show of injuries that ran from her ears to her ankles.

"It's just really tough to have to see a child going through that kind of treatment," said a 30-year-old juror who declined to give his name."We hope she'll be able to find closure in her life and move on and live the life of prosperity that is out there for her. I'm glad that she's alive and that she's still here with us, and I hope that she makes the best of her life."

Reed said the girl is doing well, psychologically and physically. She performs in plays and with her middle school band, which has planned a trip to Washington, D.C., next year to play for President Barack Obama.

"There's still a little bit more for her to go through to get completely beyond this," Reed said, "but she's come a long way."

If her testimony helped her to gain the psychological upper hand over Lee, it was her survival instinct that saved her life when she ran out of the DMV office, Reed surmised.

"We told her she was a hero for her to do that," Reed said. "It's happening to a lot of kids, and a lot of kids don't do that. They just stick and stay.

"She knew she was hurt and knew it was going to get worse, and she knew she had to get away. She had the strength and she was able to get away from that situation she was in." Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the months during which Duewa Abeana Lee abused her fiancée's daughter. Lee was convicted of abusing the girl during August and September 2011. Story was updated at 8:50 a.m. July 20.

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