PATERSON, N.J. — A New Jersey man with apocalyptic visions is accused of years of terrorizing his family, raping his five daughters and impregnating three, beating his children with wooden boards and even moving at one point to avoid child welfare investigators.
The nightmarish picture of a family subjected to more than a decade of threats and violence and largely cut off from the outside world is emerging in a state courthouse where prosecutors are preparing to have the man stand trial five times, one per child victim.
As the first case nears trial, questions have been raised about whether state authorities could have put a stop to the abuse sooner. Some of the crimes are alleged to have occurred while the family was under scrutiny by the state child welfare agency, and after the father had been arrested and pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment.
At a hearing last week, the 51-year-old man's former wife described in a calm voice her marriage to a man whose visions she said drove him to try to create "pure" family bloodlines by impregnating several of his teenager daughters.
"He said the world was going to end and it was just going to be him and his offspring and that he was chosen," the woman testified.
Arrested in 2006, he stands accused of raping five of his daughters, three of whom are believed to have given birth to a total of six children. He is being held on $1 million bond.
Having been ruled competent to stand trial earlier this year, he faces 27 charges including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, lewdness, child endangerment, aggravated criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual contact.
"We plan to proceed with all five trials if necessary," said Lisa Squitieri, the Passaic County prosecutor handling the case.
The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of sexual crimes and is not reporting the names of the husband and wife to protect the identities of their children, now all over 18 years of age.
Authorities say the assaults began in the mid-1980s and lasted until 2002, when the parents separated, and occurred at residences in Paterson, East Orange, Orange and Eatontown. The time period overlaps with the family's coming to the attention of the state's child welfare agency.
According to court records and published reports, the girls' father was arrested in 2000 and charged with kidnapping for allegedly trying to take three of his children from state custody at a Monmouth County medical center. He posted bail and later pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment and was sentenced to a year's probation.
Prosecutors in Passaic County say one of the daughters, then in her early teens, was raped as late as January 2002.
New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services declined to comment, citing confidentiality requirements.
But the man's wife and one of his daughters testified that the agency had indeed removed at least one of the children from the family's home, and that the family had temporarily moved, first to Jersey City and then to Florida, to avoid the agency's investigation.
Prosecutors in Monmouth County, where the charges in the kidnapping case were brought, did not return phone messages.
In her testimony, his daughter described experiencing and witnessing beatings administered with wooden boards and steel-toed boots. She said minor transgressions often were punished by the withholding of food.
The girl's mother testified some of the babies were delivered at home and never received birth certificates, and said in at least two instances babies who died in the home were buried without authorities being notified.
The children were home-schooled, she said, and were discouraged from interacting with other kids.
"No one really asked questions of each other because somebody would tell on somebody and somebody would get in trouble," she said.
Even after she became aware of sexual abuse, she said she was too frightened to confront him.
"I was afraid to ever accuse him of being demented, or being a pedophile. I knew the word but I wouldn't dare use it because it would result in a beating," she said. "I'm sure my not standing up to him didn't help the kids. They felt disempowered also. There was just a lot of fear. Everybody was threatened."
Daryl Pennington, an attorney representing the defendant, did not return messages seeking comment.
Attorneys are scheduled back in court on Friday, when state Superior Court Judge Raymond Reddin is to rule on the admissibility of the wife's testimony. The first trial is scheduled to begin in April.