SPOKANE -- The parents of a four-year-old girl who was murdered over the weekend appeared in court Monday in a case that one veteran police detective has called the worst case of abuse he has ever seen.
Jonathan Lytle, 28, and Adriana Lytle, 32, the father and stepmother of the victim, appeared in court Monday after they were arrested Sunday and charged with the young girl’s death. Both are being held on a $500,000 bond.
They were arrested after Jonathan Lytle had taken his daughter to Deaconess Medical Center late Saturday night bruised from head to toe and had varying degrees of bruising that revealed a potentially long-term cycle of abuse.
The victim, who was apparently developmentally disabled, was also allegedly made to wear a shock collar, which is typically used for dogs, in her parents’ attempts to discipline her.
"There was the use of a electric dog training collar used on this girl," Sergeant Joe Peterson of the Spokane Police Department said. "And what's even more dreadful is that isn't even nearly the worst of it."
The child allegedly suffered a variety of other injuries brought on by beatings with belts and spoons and had human bite marks on her body. According to court documents, Jonathan Lytle admitted to police after being told of his rights to remain silent that the girl had kicked Adriana in the chin and Adriana had responded by biting the girl.
Peterson added the girl had injuries "from her feet to the top of her head" and investigators would have to wait until the conclusion of an autopsy to determine the full range of injuries the child sustained.
On Saturday a nurse was paying a visit to the Lytles' apartment to look at their 8-month-old son and Jonathan Lytle took his daughter out of the apartment so as not to disturb the nurse while she checked out the infant boy. Later after the nurse left he returned and his daughter was made to wash clothes and towels soaked in urine in the apartment's bathtub while she was standing inside of it.
Adriana later told police during an interview that the child frequently wet herself and that she resorted to both dunking the child in water and forcing her to wash her clothes while standing inside of the bathtub with her feet together, bending over at the waist while she washed her soiled clothes.
"My house, my rules," Adriana reportedly told police during her interview. "You're not at mommy's house anymore."
At one point, according to the affidavit of probable cause, Adriana - who had been cooking a dinner to celebrate the couple's first wedding anniversary on Saturday - went into the bathroom and found the girl unresponsive and lying on her back in the bathtub filled with water and urine.
Adriana allegedly tried to perform CPR "using her hands and feet"; Jonathan came into assist but at one point left the room to go have a cigarette. While trying to revive the girl Adriana repotedly said, "We might have killed her" and Jonathan took his daughter to Deaconess Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead shortly after she arrived.
"They had concocted a story the child fallen down one time to cause these injuries," Sergeant Peterson said.
Doctors and nurses informed investigators as soon as they arrived at Deaconess Saturday night the child had been abused. Nurses who were attending to the child went into the room to help and almost universally came out crying.
Once investigators got an opportunity to see the child for themselves, a single cursory glance was all it took to see the four-year-old girl had suffered abuse over a long period of time.
"This is the worst case I've ever seen and my detectives feel the same," Peterson said. "It's probably the worst case of abuse that any of us in hundreds of combined years in this unit have ever seen."
"It's beyond abuse ... it's abuse by torture."
The family lived in unit 25 at the Dresden Apartments, located at 707 North Monroe in downtown Spokane. The child had only been living with her father and stepmother since last August. Lytle told investigators that the girl's biological mother had asked if she could live with Jonathan and Adriana for a month but never made an attempt to regain custody of the child.
The second child in the Lytle's home, an eight-month-old boy, was taken and placed in foster care Saturday night.
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