SALEM, Ore. – The home of an Oregon couple charged with abusing nine of their children looked like something out of a horror movie, the prosecution said during opening statements of the trial.
Marion County prosecutor Sarah Morris told jurors that the children of Graydon and Robyn Drown were beaten with 2-by-4 boards, metal and plastic pipes, spoons and whips.
The children, who range in age from infant to 16, hadn't seen dentists or doctors and didn't go to school, Morris said.
The children were taken by state welfare authorities after the Drowns were arrested June 19 at their rural home. Each parent faces a 25-count indictment of assault and criminal-mistreatment charges.
The Drowns also have three adult children.
Two attorneys, Chapin Milbank and Stephen A. Lipton, are representing 49-year-old Graydon Drown. Lipton told jurors his client may adhere to religious beliefs outside the mainstream, but believes in what he considers reasonable discipline. He added that evidence would show the children were raised to be polite, well-mannered and respectful.
Robyn Drown's attorney, Brooke Holstedt, tried to separate the actions of the wife and the husband. "(There's) not only nine victims," Holstedt said. "There was another victim, another serious victim — Robyn Kay Drown."
Following the opening statements, an 11-year-old son and a 13-year-old son testified.
The 13-year-old boy said he and his siblings received beatings that would leave bruises or marks, and his happiest time with his family was when his father left to go to California for a week.
The boy said his mother was punished as well, forced at times to stand with her nose against the wall or slapped or hit. When asked by Morris if he loved his parents, the boy replied: "I love my mother."
Holstedt said Graydon Drown believed he was the Messiah and told Robyn Drown that his orders to her came from God. The two were both raised as believers of the Worldwide Church of God and lived in remote parts of Alaska during their marriage before moving to Oregon in 2004.
Holstedt described how Graydon Drown often would recite passages from the Old Testament as arguments for why she should obey him.
"In order for her to survive, she had to submit to ... every order, Holstedt said.
But another witness, Agnes Opgenorth, who attends Temple Beth Sholom, where the family regularly attended, said Robyn Drown did not seem dissatisfied.
"My impression was that she was very happy and proud of her relationship and her family," she said.