Update (January 19, 2018): A young African girl who was enslaved by a couple in Dallas, Texas, testified on Tuesday about the atrocities she faced over 16 years.
The Star-Telegram reported the girl identified as Jenna, who served as a nanny to the couple’s children, explained in her testimony she was forced to cook and clean their home from morning to night. She told the jury she was called several derogatory names including “worthless,” “dog,” “idiot” and “slave” while working.
“She used an electrical cord on me when she realized a belt wasn’t hurting me enough,” Jenna told defense attorney Rebekah Perlstein during cross-examination.
According to her testimony, Jenna escaped in 2016 with the help of neighbors.
As Blavity previously reported, Mohamed Toure and Denise Florence Cros-Toure were indicted on federal charges after taking Jenna from a village in Guinea, where she initially worked for Toure’s parents.
The couple was arrested in April with charges including forced labor, conspiracy to commit forced labor, conspiracy to harbor an alien for financial gain and harboring an alien for financial gain.
Jenna’s mother, who flew from Guinea to attend the Texas trial, stated she wanted her child back.
“I love my child,” she said. “I didn’t like what they did."
Original: A wealthy Dallas couple has been arrested after authorities discovered they brought a girl from Africa and forced her to work for them as a servant for 16 years.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Mohamed Toure and Denise Florence Cros-Toure were arrested last Wednesday. The couple is facing a federal charge for forced labor.
The unidentified victim is from a village in Guinea, and initially worked for Cros-Toure’s parents in her home country. She was later taken to an airport, and flew alone to the United States. According to her passport and visa, she was five-years-old at the time, but other documents indicate she may have been as old as 13.
When she arrived in the U.S., she began working for the Toure family, who moved to the country from Guinea in 2000. According to court documents, her responsibilities included “cleaning, making the beds, vacuuming, cooking and gardening" while the Toure children were at school. She would work until they went to bed.
She was often seen walking the Toure kids to school, and that led neighbors to believe she was just a nanny. Neighbors also noted she was not allowed to play with other kids, and she told authorities she wasn’t allowed many privileges. The girl was often given hand-me-downs for clothing, and when she encountered local police officers, her appearance was described as “unkempt.”
She has also accused the Toures of verbal and physical abuse. The victim said she was slapped, beaten with belts and electric cords and had an earring ripped out by Cros-Toure. She was also called names including “little nothing,” slave and whore.
Authorities began investigating the Toures after the girl fled their home in 2016 and was assisted by neighbors. She was never reported missing.
Scott H. Palmer, the couple’s lawyer, defended them against the allegations, saying the complaint “is riddled with salacious allegations, fabrications and lies."
The lawyer painted a very different picture of the girl’s life, saying she was treated like a member of the family and that working for the Toure family was a good opportunity for her.
"We look forward to amassing a mountain of evidence to refute the government's portrayal of our clients, and look forward to revealing the motivation of this woman to lie, betray and attempt to destroy the family that took her in at the request of her father for a better life in the United States,” Palmer said in a statement.
The couple faces 20 years in federal prison, and have a hearing this week.