Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

County wants bond revoked for couple accused of child abuse

A Pima County prosecutor is trying to put Becky and Larry Tortellet back in jail while they await trial, according to court documents.

The ex-spouses, who live together, are out on bond after being indicted last year on child abuse charges.

“Put simply, Becky and Larry Tortellet tortured their now 10-year-old grandson by keeping him confined in a small, dark closet, denying him food and water, denying him a bathroom and holding him out of school for a period of years,” according to the motion to revoke bond filed in February.

The motion, which is being heard this week before Superior Court Judge Howard Hantman, asserts that Becky Tortellet, 50, has a more than 20-year history of using physical restraints on her own children and has moved from state to state to evade child welfare workers.

County prosecutor Jonathan Mosher said Monday authorities believe the Tortellets are a flight risk. He said they plan to take the boy and his younger brother and flee Arizona.

Becky Tortellet’s attorney, assistant Pima County legal defender Samuel Washington, was successful last September in getting her bail reduced from $50,000 to $10,000.

The Tortellets have been free since then, awaiting trial.

Becky and Larry, 52, said Monday through their attorneys they do not plan to leave Tucson.

Pima County Sheriff’s Detective Miguel Flores said in testimony Monday he interviewed witnesses in Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas and studied child welfare agency investigations of allegations of child abuse by the Tortellets in each of those states.

After each investigation, the family moved to another state.

Flores said Becky Tortellet’s son, now an adult, was physically restrained by her repeatedly “for his own protection,” she said.

She admitted using plastic zip ties to bind her grandson’s wrists to keep him from “acting out,” the detective said. The boy told CPS workers he was being treated this way because he was told he was “bad.”

Flores visited the Tortellet home in the 6700 block of South Iberia Avenue twice last summer to investigate allegations made to the state’s Child Protective Services of physical and emotional abuse.

A mental health provider here told authorities the grandmother brought the boy to a behavioral health facility and asked that the boy be placed in an institution.

The Tortellets have been raising the 10-year-old and his younger brother, 8 – children of one of Becky’s daughters – since shortly after they were born, they say. They do not have legal custody.

The younger boy had his own room and was well fed, according to the detective’s investigation.

However, the older boy weighed 48 pounds when the Tortellets were arrested last summer on felony child abuse charges, Deputy Dawn Barkman said then.

The grandmother told investigators she kept the boy in a closet because he could get into things that might hurt him. He was dressed in a diaper and placed in a high chair during a visit by a Tucson CPS worker and was drinking from a “sippy” cup.

His younger brother told CPS workers he could hear his brother banging on the closet walls and door.

A sheriff’s report said the closet where the boy was held emitted a “very heavy odor of urine.” Also, there were feces smeared on the wall.

Tortellet was charged in the case because he did not get help for the boy, according to grand jury testimony by the detective.

The older boy now drinks from a regular cup, uses the bathroom and has not had “any behavioral issues at all,” according to court documents.

The boy appears to be “very understanding and somewhat articulate,” the documents state.

The boys were placed in a therapeutic foster home last fall and are attending school.

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