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Bond Denied For Couple Charged In Teen's Beating Death

Mother, Stepfather Face First-Degree Murder Charges

POSTED: 8:41 am CDT August 6, 2007
UPDATED: 3:59 pm CDT August 6, 2007


Dec. 19, 2006— A federal appeals court threw out the 10-year prison sentence of a woman who rented her 9-year-old daughter to an Illinois pedophile more than 200 times, saying the punishment was too lenient.

The woman often held the girl down in their home while Joe J. Champion of Granite City, Ill., molested her, according to court documents. Champion typically paid the mother $20.

The Associated Press is not naming the woman to protect her daughter's identity.

"The factors of this case are no less than horrifying," Judge William Jay Riley wrote in the unanimous opinion released Monday by the a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals.

Champion pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The woman, convicted in 2003 of aggravated sexual abuse and conspiring with Champion to help him molest the girl, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison - the minimum provided under sentencing guidelines.

She appealed, and an 8th Circuit panel of judges sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Charles A. Shaw, saying he might have given her a lighter sentence if he'd known he wasn't bound by the guidelines.

Shaw then sentenced the woman to 10 years, saying mental problems and drug addiction had influenced her behavior. The judge also noted that she'd taken parenting classes, had vocational training and gotten her GED while in prison.

The judge said he did not believe the woman posed a danger to the public and was unlikely to repeat the actions, according to court documents.

Prosecutors appealed that sentence, claiming it was too light and the judge's reasoning was flawed.

The appeals judges disagreed. They found that the woman's efforts to rehabilitate herself neither "lessen the horrendous treatment" of her daughter, nor indicate that she wouldn't again offer her daughter to an abuser for money.

Kevin Schriener, the woman's attorney, said Tuesday he would ask for a rehearing of the appeal.

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There are secrets in the house. We don't tell.'

Interviews with children suggest mother charged in 5-year-old girl's death permitted siblings to participate in beatings

By Ofelia Casillas and Jeff Long
Tribune staff reporters

March 20, 2007
Mom Charged With Murder In Daughter's Death

Children Placed Into DCFS Custody

MAINE TOWNSHIP (CBS) ― A mother is due in court Monday, charged with murdering her five-year-old daughter.

As CBS 2's Joanie Lum reports, authorities day the child suffered years of abuse before she died.

When Sheriff's Police walked into a Northwest suburban apartment, they saw horrific evidence of child abuse -- a five-year-old girl was unresponsive.

"She was brutally murdered by her mother, these were the acts of a despicable animal," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Police say 29-year-old Mila Petrov routinely tied up her daughter, Melanie Beltran, beat her and burned her with cigarettes.

"The child wet the bed recently and the mother, to teach her a lesson, scalded her and gave her second-and third-degree burns throughout her body," said Dart.

Six siblings, ages one to 10 years-old, witnessed the abuse. This time, Melanie suffered head trauma and was taken to Lutheran General Hospital, where she died Wednesday.

That same day, Petrov gave birth to a baby at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park. It was there that the mother confessed to killing her five-year-old to Sheriff's police investigators Friday. During the confession, Petrov admitted abusing Melanie and slamming her head into a wall in the family's apartment Tuesday evening.

Mila Petrov, 29, of 8992 Kennedy Dr. in Maine Township, was charged Saturday with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the March 14 death, according to a release from the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department.

Sheriff's police were called to the home at 7:15 p.m. to assist an ambulance at the apartment, according to Cook County Sheriff's Police spokesperson Penny Mateck. When they arrived, they found Melanie, who had suffered "serious head trauma," Mateck said.

Melanie's father and siblings were also home at the time of the ambulance call.

Melanie was transported to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where doctors immediately saw extensive signs of child abuse, according to the release.

According to the medical examiner's office, an autopsy found Melanie had suffered multiple injuries and blunt trauma to the head. Additionally, her death was caused by child abuse and "failure to thrive due to parental neglect."

A neighbor said she never heard a sound from the apartment. She did not know seven children lived there, but had talked to the mother.

"She was a very nice lady, very sweet," said Rosa Daoud. "We're all shocked that this happened."

Sheriff's police estimate the abuse went on for three years. They couldn't find neighbors who knew the family, since the family was extremely secretive. It appears no one stepped in on behalf of the deceased child in unincorporated Main Township.

The girl's father is not charged. The seven remaining children are in state custody. The newborn baby boy is less than one week old.

Police said another child in the family died of SIDS nine years ago. They intend to reopen that investigation.


As Melanie Beltran lay dying on the floor, her 5-year-old body covered in bruises, her mother ordered her six other children to clean up the house. The police were coming.

Paramedics arrived to find the mother, Mila Petrov, 29, kneeling over Melanie in the living room.

"I've done everything I can do," Petrov said aloud, according to an account of the incident in state documents reviewed Monday by the Tribune.

Then she pointed to another of her daughters: "She did it," she said.

In the days after Melanie's death last week, child welfare workers interviewed the girl's siblings and others involved in the incident. Their reports portray a violent home where parents punched Melanie in the face with their fists, tied her to beds with belts and fed her hot peppers as punishment.

"There are secrets in the house," one of Melanie's siblings allegedly told child welfare workers. "We don't tell."

According to the state documents, Melanie's siblings denied being physically abused but told workers that their parents allowed them to hit Melanie.

"Everyone hit Melanie because she touched our things," a sibling told a state worker.

Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris said Melanie's case is a classic example of an abuse phenomenon where only one child is targeted by parents, but the others pay a terrible price.

"All of these kids, to an extent, they were abused, essentially raised in a climate of violence, taught violence," Harris said. "From my perspective, all of these kids are in the same boat."

On Monday a judge denied bail for Petrov, who is charged with murdering her daughter. The judge refused to let Petrov leave jail to pay her last respects and said the woman could not visit with her seven surviving children, including a boy she gave birth to on Wednesday, the day Melanie died.

Cook County Circuit Judge Earl Hoffenberg approved a public defender's request to put Petrov on suicide watch.

When Petrov entered the courtroom Monday, she waved and smiled at her mother and the man she calls her common-law husband.

The man, who was at work during Melanie's final beating, has not been charged. But prosecutors told reporters Monday that they are investigating whether he had any role in abusing the girl.

Assistant State's Atty. Martin Moore outlined in court how Petrov gave Melanie two black eyes on March 12 for "being bad," then beat her the next day. The girl lost consciousness and died Wednesday afternoon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Moore told the judge that Melanie also had been injured previously, including old burns from scalding bath water, a broken nose, bruises on her abdomen and marks that suggested she had been beaten with a cord across her abdomen and legs. Scars above her ankles suggested she had been tied with a rope, the prosecutor said.

Petrov told investigators that the girl was the most troublesome of the couple's seven children--because of lying, urinating on the carpet and throwing up--and had to be punished often, according to Moore.

The prosecutor said Petrov admitted tying the girl's feet together at times and keeping her in a closet when Petrov needed to leave home.

Moore said in court that the beating that led to Melanie's death started on Tuesday afternoon when Petrov woke up from a nap in their condominium near Des Plaines.

After Melanie threw up on a towel in the bedroom, Petrov hit her in the back of the head, slamming the front of her head into a wall, according to Moore.

Petrov led Melanie into the living room, threatening to feed her hot sauce as a punishment for lying, Moore said. After Petrov struck the child some more, Melanie stopped breathing and lost consciousness, Moore said.

Petrov said nothing during the hearing, but her lawyer suggested Petrov is in danger in jail. Public Defender Wendy Schilling told Hoffenberg that Petrov has been shouted at and given threatening looks by inmates in the Maywood lockup where she has been held since her arrest.

"She has indicated to me that people have been yelling at her and pointing at her," Schilling said.

After the hearing, Schilling responded to Sheriff Thomas Dart, who had called Petrov "an animal" when announcing the first-degree murder charges on Sunday.

"My client is a human being," Schilling said.

Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty if Petrov is convicted, but they said she would be eligible for it.

Investigators are looking at the possibility that Petrov had another child who died. Officials found a birth certificate for a child born in the 1990s. Petrov allegedly told the investigators that the child died at 3 months of age of sudden infant death syndrome.

Petrov's surviving children, the oldest of whom is 10, have been placed with relatives while the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigates the family. The agency had no previous contact with the family, according to spokesman Kendall Marlowe.

No records have come to light showing anyone outside the home knew of the abuse.

In addition to the interviews with Melanie's siblings, state workers questioned medical workers about the care the girl received at the hospital.

A doctor told state workers this is one of the worst cases of abuse he has seen. "The child was definitely a victim of long-term excessive physical abuse," the doctor said. "The ongoing abuse is at the hands of an adult."

He said Melanie had old and new scars, ligature marks around her ankles and "raccoon eyes from being beaten."

"She has burn marks on her feet, a battered face," the doctor reported. "She has linear marks on her belly, which could be from being hit by a ruler. Her entire back--shoulder to shoulder, neck to waist--is burned ... from hot oil or grease."

A photograph taken of Melanie in her hospital bed as she lay dying showed she had thick hair and full eyebrows. Covered in bandages, blood dripped from her nose.

Melanie had a bruised left eye, a tube in her mouth and wore cartoon pajamas.

One caseworker who saw Melanie at the hospital noted: "She is bruised from her head to her toes."

The father was in the house and the abuse was suspected of going on for 3 years and yet the father was not charged with anything.  Why?  Is a father nor liable for failure to portect?  Many mothers are jailed for failure to protect.  It appears that this woman gave birth at least 9 times in 10 years as she had six other live children taken into custody, gave birth to another and at least one had died supposedly from sids years before.  Accfording to neighbors, the family was so quiet they did not even know 7 children lived there.  Were all the children living with fear?  certainly seeing a sibling terribly abused is child abuse also..



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