Six siblings who authorities say were subjected to sadistic sexual abuse by older relatives on a Missouri farm more than 25 years ago issued their first public statement Wednesday in an effort to counter defense arguments that the victims have been reluctant to take the case to trial.
In a statement read to The Associated Press by one of the women after it was approved by her four sisters and one brother, the siblings said they are ready to tell their stories in court.
"After four years of cooperating with the prosecution, we believe that a just and speedy trial can be reached without further compromising our privacy and safety," the statement said. "Even now, it is our hope that this case will bring attention to crimes against children and will give other victims the courage they need to come forward."
The AP generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse and hasn't reported the familial relationship between the alleged victims and the older family members.
Burrell Mohler Sr. and his four sons, Burrell Jr., David, Jared and Roland Mohler, are facing dozens of counts of rape and sodomy after the six siblings told investigators they were abused as children on a farm east of Kansas City over several years beginning in the mid-1980s. Burrell Sr. and Burrell Jr. remain behind bars, while the others are free on bond. All have pleaded not guilty.
The men's trials have been repeatedly pushed back due in part to delays in the defense obtaining evidence, including the six siblings' health care records. Defense attorneys have argued their clients have been in limbo for more than two years, living as accused child molesters, without getting a chance to prove their innocence in court.
Defense attorneys have requested mental and physical health records going back to when the siblings were children, noting that if the horrible acts of abuse against them really happened, there would be medical records to prove it.
George Jones, an attorney for David Mohler, contends it's unfair that his client's trial keeps getting delayed because the accusers have refused to provide health care records. Clay County Circuit Judge Larry Harman is scheduled to rule Friday on Jones' motions to have the case dismissed.
The woman who spoke with the AP said she and her siblings were concerned about the possibility their personal information would be comprised. However, she said they were reassured by the appointment of a discovery judge late last year to review all health records before deciding what should be shared with defense attorneys.
The judge signed an order Dec. 19 requiring the siblings to turn lists of health care providers over to the state, and the woman said the requested records now have been given to the court.
The woman said she couldn't discuss details of the claims against the Mohler men because she didn't want to jeopardize the criminal cases. The first trial, for Burrell Mohler Sr., is scheduled for April in Clay County.
Mitru Ciarlante, director of youth initiatives with the National Center for Victims of Crime, said the thought of providing confidential, personal records to strangers is troubling for most people, and even more so for crime victims because they don't know how that information will be used.
"When it comes to personal privacy _ something many Americans value very closely _ it's something we give up when we report a crime or when someone else reports a child is abused," she said. "Those are some of the barriers victims have to reporting abuse in the first place."
The men were charged in November 2009, a year after the siblings went to authorities. Four of the siblings claim the Mohler men took turns raping them over several years, including some assaults that happened after patriarch Burrell Sr., an ordained minister, conducted wedding ceremonies to "marry" the young girls to the older men so they could have sex.
Court documents also describe claims by some of the girls that they were forced to have sex with a horse and a dog.
The accusers said the abuse started when they were very young, in some cases as young as 5 years old, and they had repressed the memories for more than 20 years.