Child Protective Services agents investigated complaints from three girls living at the Las Vegas home of Janet and Dwight Solander at least three years before the former foster parents were arrested on child abuse charges, according to recently unsealed court testimony.
In light of further details about physical and sexual abuse the girls endured for years, Clark County prosecutors have added dozens of new charges against the Solanders.
The alleged abuse began in January 2011 — the same month the couple adopted the girls who were in their care — and lasted into November 2013. The girls ranged in age from about 9 to 12 years old at the time, court records show.
Just after they were adopted, the girls said caseworkers visited the house and took pictures.
“They said that they wanted to talk to all three of us,” one of the girls testified.
It’s unclear what the caseworkers found at the time, but the girls said that the most severe abuse had yet to begin.
“Before, when we were foster kids, we got popped soft, not hard but soft,” the middle child said.
SISTERS DESCRIBE SEVERE ABUSE
During a June preliminary hearing that was closed to the public, the three girls described ongoing torture at the hands of the Solanders, according to the court transcripts made public earlier this month.
Janet Solander, 53, who was being held at the Clark County Detention Center on $150,000 bail, now faces 46 counts, including child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm, sexual assault with a minor under 14 and assault with the use of a deadly weapon.
Dwight Solander, 50, who is free on bail, faces 36 counts, including child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm and sexual assault with a minor under 14.
The youngest child said Dwight Solander was sometimes away from the home when their adoptive mother beat them, but he was well aware of the abuse.
“He should have been the one to step up and say, ‘You know what? You need to stop doing that,’ ” the girl testified. “ ‘That’s not right. You’re abusing them,’ and should have stepped up and called the cops.”
One of the girls said Janet Solander shoved her under a faucet of scalding water for so long that she still has scars from the burn on her shoulder.
Another girl was threatened with a razor blade and said her lip was cut after she squirmed while being forced to take a cold shower. Her sister also was threatened with the razor blade and said she was scared because “I don’t want to die in a bathtub.”
Family Services spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said the Solanders were licensed as foster parents in 2010, and the department has since revoked that license. She declined to comment on specifics of the case, citing “confidentiality statutes that protect child welfare information.”
The middle child testified that she watched as Janet Solander grabbed the oldest girl’s head and slammed it against a marble counter top, giving her a black eye.
Solander forced one of the girls to stand inside a trash bag for an entire day, according to testimony, which also indicated she told the girls she fed them blended food that included parts from mice.
Janet Solander’s biological daughter, Danielle Hinton, also faces two counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm.
The three adults were taken into custody March 20 at their home on Wakashan Avenue, near Deer Springs Way and Grand Canyon Drive. The foster children were placed there by the Clark County Department of Family Services in June 2010, and were adopted by the Solanders in January 2011, police reports show.
Transcripts of the closed hearing indicated that Hinton laughed as one of the girls testified.
“I have every right to tell what they did to me,” the middle child said. “And I don’t care if Danielle doesn’t like me, or if she laughs at me because I’m up here crying, because at least I was — I had someone — to have someone that cares about me.”
Prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth said she saw Hinton smirk, “make little noises” and roll her eyes. Hinton’s defense attorney, Jeff Rue, said he did not notice anything from his client.
Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan also said she did not notice a reaction from Hinton, though she focused on the girl’s testimony.
‘THE DEFINITION OF ABUSED KIDS’
Police had interviewed Hinton about the allegations. She knew the girls were spanked with paint sticks and forced to sit on buckets topped with toilet seats for hours at a time.
Hinton even told Frances Emery, an investigator with Metro’s Crimes Against Youth and Family Bureau, that the girls appeared “very scared, traumatized and were the definition of abused kids.”
Sandra Cetl, a pediatrician who examined the children, reported scarring and delayed physical growth because of the abuse.
Upwards of eight other foster children lived with the three adopted girls, according to the transcripts, meaning caseworkers had visited the house in the course of the ongoing alleged abuse.
The girls testified that the Solanders often forced them to stay behind an iron gate in a loft area, while the other children roamed free around the house.
“We couldn’t go past the bathroom,” the youngest girl said. “And if we climbed over (the gate), she would know because, um, it would electrocute us.”
At one point, one girl feigned a seizure because she no longer wanted to stay in the home.
“I was gonna call the police and make sure these people suffer for what they did to me, because I don’t want them to do it to other people,” she said.
In late 2013, the girls were sent to a Bible ministry in Florida, where they told the director and caseworkers that the defendants hit them with a paint stick on their legs and buttocks until they bled.
The girls said they feared returning home and believed their adoptive mother would end up killing them, police reports show. They never encountered the Solanders again until the court hearing.
The girls slept in their underwear on boards with no blankets or sheets, court records stated. The home had surveillance cameras, and their adoptive mother monitored them with a cellphone, authorities said.
The girls also testified that Janet Solander would catheterize them, then beat them if urine came out.
Dwight Solander is due back in court Tuesday, while Janet Solander is slated to appear before a judge August 28. Hinton is not scheduled for another court appearance until next year.
After having discovered religion in Florida, at least one girl said that she now forgives the defendants.
“There are people in this room that treated me really bad that deserve a chance,” she said during the preliminary hearing. “I pray every night. I ask God to save them, to convict them. I want to tell them that you need to change before it’s too late.”
Contact reporter David Ferrara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.