A Minneapolis father has pleaded guilty to sexually and physically assaulting his twin teenage daughters and endangering a third child who lived in the family’s home, in what became known as the “house of horrors” case.
Jerry Lee Curry, 52, was arrested a year ago on charges that he subjected his twin daughters, both of whom have developmental disabilities, to years of physical and sexual abuse, impregnating one of them, at the family’s home in a quiet south Minneapolis neighborhood. At a hearing Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to felony charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree assault and gross misdemeanor child endangerment.
Curry is expected to be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison at a court hearing scheduled for next Wednesday.
“We are happy that Mr. Curry agreed to plead guilty and accept a long prison term for his crimes,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “That saved his victims from having to testify and relive the horrific times he put them through. This is one of the most revolting cases I have seen and our prosecution team did a terrific job to bring justice for our victims.”
The widely publicized case prompted relatives and neighbors to raise questions about why authorities did not act sooner to rescue the girls from years of abuse, and it reignited concerns that statewide reforms adopted in 2015 had not done enough to improve Minnesota’s child protection system. As far back as 2013, the girls told county child welfare workers about being beaten by their father, and police visited the house more than 50 times — often in response to reports of domestic violence, records show.
The twins, now 22, described being repeatedly raped, beaten with bats and chained for days at a time without food. The chains were so tight around one girl’s ankles that she developed gangrene and had to undergo surgery, court records show. Clinicians who examined the twins and their scars concluded they had been subjected to abuse that was “clinically diagnostic of torture.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, Curry admitted that he forced his daughter to have sex with him and that she did it because she knew that if she did not comply, “Curry could seriously hurt her,” according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Curry acknowledged that he had hit another daughter so severely that she suffered eye damage. Curry admitted that he struck her so hard that it caused blindness in her left eye, and it is likely she will never recover her vision.
A third daughter, who was only about 10 years old at the time, observed Curry and others physically disciplining the older daughters repeatedly over the span of two years, which caused her mental and emotional harm, according to prosecutors.
Court records also indicate that as far back as 2013, Hennepin County child protection workers knew of possible abuse in the home. One of the children reported to child welfare workers that Curry struck her in the back of the head with his fist and then banged a sibling’s head on the countertop. A third, younger child in the home reported being punched in the face multiple times, court records show. The county offered the family services, but the children’s mother, Shelia M. Wilson, 49, declined, and the case was closed without any finding.
In June 2016, another child protection case was opened after officials received a report of threatened sexual abuse by Curry and Wilson. According to court records, Curry allegedly allowed drug dealers to have sex with two of the children in exchange for crack. Curry was observed beating the mother and the twins, and he would threaten them with his .45-caliber pistol, a child protection report said. Curry “was observed kicking, stomping on and punching” the children, the report said.
Still, officials made no finding of criminal abuse and closed the case about four months later, records show.
“This case is a reminder that we still need statewide training, standards and a quality review program to ensure that this does not ever happen again,” said Rich Gehrman, executive director of Safe Passage for Children, a watchdog group for child welfare.
Curry is expected to serve two-thirds of his time, or 20 years, in prison. He will spend the other 10 years under supervised release and will have to register as a sexual predator, according to the County Attorney’s Office.
Wilson, the mother, who also was charged in the case, pleaded guilty last September to felony criminal neglect. Her sentencing is set for March 11.
One of the twins gave birth in 2014 and also in 2017. The younger children have guardians and have been placed in foster homes, while the two adult twins are living with support services in the community. The County Attorney’s Office has filed to terminate Curry’s parental rights.