A Northern California woman who prosecutors say tortured and abused her fiancé’s 12-year-old daughter for a three-month time period was sentenced to life in prison Thursday.
A jury convicted Duewa Lee, 37, on July 19 of torture, two counts of mayhem, six counts of beating a child and two additional felony counts of child abuse.
In 2011, the victim was left in Lee’s care while her father, Lee’s fiancé, was in jail for robbery charges.
Authorities were alerted to the abuse in September 2011 when the 12-year-old girl turned to a woman working at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento and said, “Please, please help me.”
“With an extraordinary amount of courage, she was able to disclose the abuse to a stranger at the Department of Motor Vehicles when Lee stepped outside,” a Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office press release stated.
Prosecutors allege Lee beat the victim “with electrical cords, put a hot iron on her back, stapled her ear, heated a metal spatula and placed it on the child’s buttocks, threw the child down stairs, stomped the child’s chest and abdomen and didn’t allow her to eat,” according to the press release.
The victim, who is now 14, suffered life threatening injuries and had some permanent disfigurement from the abuse, according to prosecutors.
The Sacramento Bee reports that at trial, Lee, who has maintained her innocence, alleged the girl’s father inflicted the injuries, which he denied when he was called to testify. Two of Lee’s daughters also testified that their mother didn’t abuse the victim.
HLN was unable to reach Lee’s defense attorney for a comment Monday.
“I moved on from the past and look forward to the future,” the girl told Lee in the courtroom Thursday, according to The Sacramento Bee. “I now live with people that love me and have made me to the point where I can forgive you, but I will never forget the things you did to me.”
Before a judge handed down her life sentence, Lee pleaded, “Please, your honor, do not send me away for a long time. I am not an abuser or a danger to anyone. I have been without my freedom and family and my kids for almost two years. This seems like almost an eternity and I cannot bear it for another second,” The Sacramento Bee reported.