VERNON PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Three people are behind bars and a 7-year-old girl is being treated for injuries in an alleged case of child abuse that a Louisiana sheriff’s department called, “one of the worst, if not the worst case” they had ever seen.
Allen Clayton Fulks, age 20; Dakota Wayne Singletary, age 22; and Stacy Lynn Tharpe, age 29; are all charged with second degree cruelty to a juvenile.
Officials say Faulks and Singletary severely beat the child and Tharpe watched, then tried to conceal the little girl’s whereabouts by leaving her home alone, according to a news release from the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“The physical and emotional trauma suffered by this child is one of the worst, if not the worst case of child abuse, that has occurred in Vernon Parish,” the department stated in a new release.
Investigators learned of the alleged abuse after an unrelated series of incidents led them to the child July 6.
Just before 9:30 p.m., Rosepine Police Officer Robert Green and Louisiana State Trooper Peter Smith responded to a reported crash and found Singletary and Fulks inside the vehicle suffering from minor injuries.
As the officers investigated, Tharpe arrived at the scene with her children. Rosepine is a small town, and Officer Green knew Tharpe was caring for an additional child, who was not with her.
When Green asked Tharpe about the child, authorities say she indicated that the child’s mother was taking care of her. A witness at the scene, however, told the officers that the child was still in Tharpe’s care.
When Green and Smith went to Tharpe’s home, they found the little girl covered in severe bruises, her eyes almost swollen shut.
The officers contacted VPSO Detective David Vance, who learned that the little girl’s mom had left her in Tharpe’s care back in February and hadn’t returned.
The child was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where an examination showed “significant and acute bruising” over her entire body, adding that the girl said Singletary and Fulks had repeatedly beaten her with their fists and choked her until she lost consciousness. Her hair had also been cut off.
Craft said the victim told deputies she “was tired and couldn’t take the abuse any longer.”
While officers investigated the apparent horrific case of child abuse at Tharpe’s house, Singletary and Fulks were at the hospital being treated for their injuries from the automobile accident.
Upon their release from the hospital the following day, investigators interviewed them at the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office on July 7. Both men admitted to Detective Vance that they had abused the child, according to sheriff’s officials.
Following those July 7 interviews, Singletary and Fulks were arrested and each charged with three counts of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile. They are being held at the Vernon Parish Jail on a $450,000 bond set by District Judge Tony Bennett.
On July 8, Vance interviewed Tharpe, who admitted to witnessing the child being abused. Because she allegedly failed to report the abuse and attempted to hide the child and left her home alone, Tharpe was arrested and charged with one count of principal to second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.
She is being held in the Vernon Parish jail on a $300,000 bond.
Although the child’s mother has not returned since she dropped off the child with Tharpe five months ago, detectives located her biological father and are now working jointly with a social worker from the Department of Child and Family Services on the case.
Craft said if not for the efforts of Green, Smith and Vance, and their diligence and hard work in the rescue of the child, investigators believe she “would have become a tragic statistic…”
The child continues to undergo medical treatment for her injuries.