Tracy torture suspects appear in court

December 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Michael Luther Schumacher and Kelly Layne Lau walked into a Stockton courtroom in handcuffs and shackles, barely looking at each other, separated by an armed sheriff's deputy.

Bail for the husband and wife was raised to more than $2.2 million. They were formally charged with 13 felonies, including kidnapping, inflicting corporal injury on a child and torture.

Lau laughed at times when talking to her public defender, but the pair sat stone-faced when Judge Franklin Stephenson read the list of charges.

The third suspect, Caren Ramirez, did not appear in court. She was taken from jail to the hospital for an undisclosed medical emergency.

According to a probation report released in Sacramento County Thursday, Ramirez has a history of abusing the 16-year-old boy that escaped from Schumacher and Lau's home Monday. Their relationship is still unclear, but a child quoted in that report refers to him as Ramirez's son. In that case, Ramirez pleaded no contest to one count of felony child abuse and three other child abuse charges dropped.

San Joaquin County prosecutor Angela Hayes says the investigation continues.

"We are at the nascent stages of this investigation obviously; 72 hours ago none of us knew this young man existed, so whether those charges, there be more or not I cannot tell you at this point, the investigation isn't near complete by any means," Hayes said.

Court documents released Thursday accuse the couple and Ramirez of using a variety of instruments to torture the boy, including a knife, a belt and a baseball bat.

Wednesday, in an exclusive jailhouse interview with abc7, Lau admitted to hitting the boy with an aluminum bat in the knees. But Lau said Ramirez went even further saying, "she burned him with a bat; she stuck it in the fireplace and pressed it against him. I knew it was wrong in the back of my head."

Lau's mother sat in the back of the packed courtroom and wept during the hearing. She declined to speak to reporters.

The couple also was charged with child endangerment of their own four young children, who lived with them in Tracy. The children are now in protective custody, their parents ordered by the court to stay away from them.

Hayes called the torture inflicted on the boy sadistic.

"Primarily in this case, obviously we're looking at more sadistic pleasure or persuasion," Hayes said.

All three are due back in court on Monday; they face life in prison.


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