A Southern California couple have been arrested for allegedly torturing and physically abusing their five nieces and nephews over a four-year period from 2017 to 2021.
Jessica Salas-Ruiz, 26, and Fernando Inzunza, 36, of Rialto, California were taken into police custody on May 25 and booked into the West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino on multiple counts of corporal punishment of a child. Inzunza was also charged with one count of torture.
They are each being held on a $750,000 bail.
Five minors — ranging in ages from 11 to 17 — told authorities that they were subjected to "branding, strangulation and being shot with pellet guns," according to a press release from the Rialto Police Department.
“Sometimes the children during punishment were made to kneel on rice for long periods of time,” Rialto police Detective Erica Duque told KABC. “Or made to kneel outside on the hot concrete on small pieces of gravel.”
Authorities said the children told another relative about the alleged abuse after leaving the couple’s home in Rialto last year. That relative reported the allegations to Barstow police.
The Barstow Police Department started investigating the couple in August of 2021 and then notified Rialto police of the allegations in January of this year, police said.
Rialto police conducted forensic interviews and medical examinations of the children and found “physical evidence including scarring consistent with the victims’ account of abuse,” police said.
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The couple’s former neighbors in Rialto were shocked by the allegations, according to KNBC.
“I want to repeat what you said to me. I can’t believe that,” Brenda Simms told the station.
She was so confident that the abuse did not take place that she offered to testify on the couple’s behalf.
“They were over there for years,” Simms said. “I never saw any abuse.”
Other neighbors expressed concerned about the children.
“Thank God someone listened to the children,” Nina Jorquez said. "There were a lot of kids and toys, but I didn’t notice them being abused and I’m sorry that I didn’t.”
Police said the children all have different fathers, and their mother is not a consistent presence in their lives, KNBC reported.
Anyone with information about the couple or the children is being asked to contact Lt. James Mills at 909-820-2632 or anonymously through WeTip at 800-782-7463.