A couple in Yukon, Okla., was convicted of child abuse and neglect Monday, in what assistant district attorney Paul Hesse called “the most severe case of abuse” he’d ever seen. According to testimony heard in court, John and Sonja Kluth, both 58, routinely beat, choked and burned their 10, 13, and 16-year-old adopted children. The children, two boys and a girl, were not provided with adequate sanitation or medical care and were made to live in a storm cellar and sometimes forced into dog crates and fed dog food. According to the court, the 16-year-old boy received the worst of the abuse: according to Hesse, the teen’s finger was broken from being hit with a meat tenderizing mallet, he had a stab wound in his chest, and scars on his hands from being whipped. He also had his tongue and testicles squeezed with pliers. The 10-year-old girl had an earring ripped out of her ear and was hit in the face with a phone. Authorities found him sleeping in a box behind an Oklahoma City ice cream shop after he ran away from home.
Upon their arrest in February 2011, John Kluth reportedly told police, “kids need walls and there is a wall of discipline in the home.” The Kluths have three biological children who are estranged from their parents. Sonja Kluth, who according to Hesse was the chief abuser, was a hotel manager and John Kluth worked in the postal service. Their sentencing is set for July 24. The jury has recommended that Sonja Kluth be sentenced to 25 years each for two counts of abuse and three counts of neglect, and life for the abuse of the 16-year-old. John Kluth, convicted of thee counts of abuse and two counts of neglect, faces 1o years for each count.