Two young men allegedly abused by their Orcutt foster mother several years ago wavered on the details of the purported abuse during the woman’s trial Thursday afternoon, changing their stories several times as different attorneys questioned them.
Jacob B., 19, and Carlos S., 20, referred to in court by their first names and only their last initials to protect their identities as alleged juvenile crime victims, testified for the prosecution Thursday in the Santa Maria trial of Bertha Savoy, 74, and Duane James, 40.
Savoy and James, her nephew, lived in houses next door to each other and are both accused of abusing nine children in their care over the span of several years.
Savoy is standing trial on six felony counts of child abuse and James has been charged with six felony counts of corporal injury to a child and one felony count of child abuse.
Both are out of custody on bail.
The alleged victims ranged in age from 8 to 17 years old, and included four foster children who were in Savoy’s care, two of the four children who lived with James in the house next door, and three young people who had been in Savoy’s foster care within the last three years but were not at the time of her arrest.
The defendants were arrested in June 2010. Trial started Monday before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Kelly.
Carlos testified Thursday under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser that he saw Savoy lock his three foster brothers, Jacob, Angel and Manny, out of the house one night. They remained outside all night, he said.
He said he could see Savoy talking to the boys before sending them outside, but couldn’t hear what she was saying.
“I could tell by her tone of her voice that she’s angry,” Carlos added.
He admitted he was nervous about testifying.
“I don’t really like to stand in front of a crowd like this,” Carlos said.
He told the court that Savoy eventually kicked him out of the house too.
“I think that was my choice,” he said, of sleeping in a car outside.
Carlos then acknowledged telling a social worker he didn’t want to be kicked out of the house.
He said he remembered having problems getting food during the year he spent in Savoy’s home.
“We could only eat one time, I think. After that, we had to wait several hours to eat again.”
Food “was kind of limited,” Carlos said. “We could only choose one thing and that’s it.”
If the foster children took food when they were hungry, “in her house, that was called stealing,” Carlos said.
Taking food also resulted in discipline, he added.
Under cross-examination by Savoy’s attorney Michael Scott, however, Carlos said Savoy provided the foster children three meals a day and a snack, but said he was still “kind of” starved.
He said two of the boys that were kicked out of the house broke curfew, and again repeated that he chose to sleep outside.
But when Gresser questioned him again, Carlos said he was kicked out and not welcomed back in that night.
He later admitted he didn’t remember whether Savoy kicked him out of the house or he left willingly.
Other testimony came Thursday from Jacob, who was also a foster child of Savoy’s.
He said on the witness stand while Gresser was examining him that Savoy told him to lie to Child Welfare Service workers when he went to hug her good-bye at the time of her arrest.
When Scott questioned him, Jacob changed his account to say that Savoy only said “bye” when he hugged her.
Later, Jacob said Savoy told all of her foster children at once to lie to Child Welfare Services, and not just him.
Jacob also said in response to Gresser’s inquiries that he saw a bruise on his foster brother Angel’s rib cage.
Prosecution testimony continues this morning.