Polygamist Dad Gets 7 Life Sentences for Torturing Kids,Imprisoning Wives

February 13, 2009 MURRIETA -- A self-proclaimed Islamist polygamist, and father of 19 children, will spend his life in prison for torturing some of his children and falsely imprisoning two of his three wives.

55-year-old Mansa Musa Muhummed was sentenced today in Riverside County Superior Court to seven consecutive life sentences and about 17 years of other prison time.

Muhummed was arrested about ten years ago on charges of child endangerment, spousal abuse and false imprisonment.

After years of legal maneuvering, Muhummed finally went on trial last year. During the trial, several of his children testified that they were starved, beaten and strung up with electrical cord in the basement of their home.

Jurors also saw Muhummed sob on the stand as he testified in his own defense. Muhummed denied beating his children's knuckles and smashing their toes with a hammer.

On June 11, 2008, the jury convicted Muhummed of seven counts of torture, 12 counts of child endangerment, 4 counts of spousal abuse and 2 counts of false imprisonment.
original trial story
AGUANGA: Aguanga torture trial begins
By JOHN HALL - Monday, May 5, 2008 An Aguanga man imprisoned and tortured two of his three "wives" and more than a dozen children over a three-year period starting in 1996, one of those wives testified Monday at the start of his trial.

Mansa Musa Muhummed, now 55, is charged with multiple counts of torture, child abuse, spousal abuse and false imprisonment. Those charges stem from crimes he allegedly committed not only in Aguanga, but also when the families lived in Perris and Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Julie Baldwin said.

Baldwin told jurors Monday that Muhummed starved and beat many of the children ---- who ranged in age from infants to early 20s ---- often simply for trying to get a small amount of food.

A 19-year-old daughter who was only 4 feet, 1 inch tall and weighed only 56 pounds, and a 20-year-old son who was 4 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed 78 pounds, were found by authorities on the Sweepstakes Lane property in April 1999, Baldwin said.

Muhummed "single-handedly terrorized the entire household," Baldwin said in her opening statement.

Muhummed's defense attorney, Peter Morreale, has chosen to wait and give his opening statement later when he begins to present his case.

Born Richard Boddie, Muhummed took that as his Muslim name and believes he has the right to multiple wives because of his religion, authorities say.

Two of Muhummed's wives and some of the children were forced to live in a three-car garage he had partitioned off with a wall. The door to the outside of the garage was boarded up so no one could get out and there were padlocks on the roll-up doors, Baldwin said.

Those living in the garage were deprived of not only food, but the use of a bathroom for days at a time, she said.

They were unable to escape the prison of their own home until one of the women seized on a chance to get help by slipping a letter to a clerk at the Aguanga post office in April 1999, according to testimony during the first day of trial Monday.

Laura Cowan, one of Muhummed's three wives, told jurors she had kept a self-addressed, stamped envelope a social services case worker had previously given her.

She wrote a 13-page letter, dated March 20, 1999, detailing what Muhummed was doing to the women and children.

After putting the letter in the envelope, Cowan said she hid it in her underwear so he wouldn't find it.

"I was scared he was gonna kill us," she said, speaking of herself and her children.

Because they lived in such a rural area, Cowan said she knew Muhummed would go to the post office the first of every month to pick up mail and food stamps.

So the first part of April 1999, she made the trip with him. While in line, Muhummed became distracted, Cowan said, striking up a conversation with a man behind them.

When she reached the counter, Cowan said she lifted up her garment, pulled the envelope out and slipped it to the clerk, quietly saying "Please mail this for me."

Within days, Riverside County sheriff's deputies were at the Aguanga property and the investigation into alleged crimes, including torture and false imprisonment, was under way.

Cowan not only was able to pass on the letter for help, but also kept audio recordings of what was going on while the families lived in Desert Hot Springs and later Aguanga.

"I wanted proof this was happening," Cowan said.

"I knew that somehow I'd get out of there," she said.

Jurors listened to several of the recordings Monday afternoon.

A man identified by Cowan as Muhummed could be heard yelling at children, saying things like: "I'm gonna beat you good" and "All you is is dirt" in one recording.

In another recording, a child could be heard screaming in pain as well as what sounded like someone being hit.

The final segment jurors heard was likely the most chilling with blow after blow heard as a child screams.

Cowan testified that Muhummed, in that recording, was using a boat oar to beat the bottom of the feet of a young boy.

Cowan spent nearly the entire day on the witness stand Monday, often choking back emotions or breathing deeply as she described what she and the other alleged victims endured.

Throughout the day's testimony, Muhummed spent most of the time leafing through a thick notebook of court documents and writing notes.

With the prosecutor's prompting, Cowan described a time Muhummed attacked her while they lived in Perris in late 1996.

"He was choking me ... I couldn't breathe," she said. "He kicked me several times in big black Army boots.

"He took his foot and he stepped on my head," Cowan said.

Cowan later told jurors how, while living in Aguanga, she and the children were forced to urinate in buckets then later bury bottles of urine in holes they dug in a field near the home.

Muhummed faces seven possible life sentences should the seven-man, five-woman Southwest Justice Center jury find him guilty as now charged. The potential life sentences stem from the seven counts of torture he's charged with. He is also charged with 12 counts of child abuse, four counts of spousal abuse and two counts of false imprisonment.

The 12 child abuse counts name eight of Muhummed's 13 biological children as well as two children each from two women he called his wives, who are the named victims in the false imprisonment counts.

The trial continues Tuesday before Judge F. Paul Dickerson. Attorneys estimate the trial will take about six weeks.

Muhummed remains in custody, being held in lieu of $1 million bail, jail records state.