A man who held a woman and her two children hostage in their Spotsylvania County home for at least two years was convicted of five felony charges Thursday.
Kariem Moore, 45, entered Alford pleas to three counts of abduction and two counts of child cruelty. In exchange for the pleas, an object sexual penetration charge was dropped.
Prosecutors Amanda Sweeney and Crystal Montague–Holland said Moore’s treatment of the victim included hogtying the woman to the bed when he left, making the children stay in their room for months at a time and frequent physical abuse.
Moore’s pleas came just before opening arguments in a scheduled two-day trial were to begin. A jury had already been selected.
Following the jury selection, there was an extended break, during which Moore talked privately with his attorney, Ben Burchett. When Judge Ricardo Riguel finally returned to the courtroom, Burnette announced that Moore was forfeiting his right to a jury trial.
An Alford plea means that Moore was not admitting guilt, but acknowledging that there was sufficient evidence for a conviction. As Rigual asked him questions related to his plea, Moore repeatedly insisted that he is innocent.
“I didn’t take nobody and I didn’t hold nobody. They trying to give me life for something I did not do,” Moore said.
After Moore seemed to be having second thoughts about entering the Alford plea, Rigual threatened to go ahead with the jury trial. Moore responded, “no, no, no.”
According to a summary of the evidence given by Sweeney, authorities went to a home in the 3600 block of Mine Road on July 29, 2017, to conduct a welfare check on the woman who lived there. Out-of-state relatives reported that they hadn’t heard from her in a long time.
Every window was covered by blinds or towels and police initially got no answer when they knocked on the door. Police were walking around the back part of the home when they heard a noise, so they returned to the front of the house.
Moore walked out the front door at that point and approached the deputies. Moore initially resisted their efforts to see the woman, Sweeney said, but eventually agreed to let the deputies speak to her through the door.
When Moore went back to the front door, it was locked. One of the children had apparently locked it after realizing the police were there. Court records indicate that Moore is the father of the children.
The children ran to the bedroom where the woman had been ordered to stay. They told her, “We need to go, this is our chance.”
All three sneaked out the back door after realizing that the refrigerator that was normally blocking it had been moved. They were greeted on the side of the house by Moore, who told them, “get the [expletive] back in the house.”
The woman bolted to the nearest police cruiser with her boys right behind her. All three were grasping at the vehicle door trying to get inside.
The children told police that they hadn’t left the house in years other than to go to the mailbox or to a shed behind the home. They did not go to school but received some teaching from their mother, who also brought food to their room when they were locked in for weeks or months at a time.
When on extended punishments, the children said they were allowed out once a day to have bowel movements. A jug was kept in the room for them to urinate in.
The children recalled seeing their mother tied up on the bed with extension cords when Moore left the house. They told police they were frequently beaten and forced to stand in a corner overnight for such offenses as eating nachos.
Sweeney said Moore installed a security system in the home to help him keep the other occupants in check. There was a motion sensor in the hallway that alerted Moore if the woman or the children entered the hallway.
At the time she was rescued, the woman was sick with chronic medical conditions that are still hindering her today. She said Moore would stomp three times, signaling her to come to him to perform sex acts or to bring other things he wanted.
Moore set up a schedule that required the woman to perform chores, such as cooking at specific times. If the meal was late or not to his liking, she would be beaten.
After one of the children was severely beaten one day, Sweeney said, the woman became determined to get out. She found a phone in Moore’s room and began trying to find family members on Facebook.
She made contact with a cousin who didn’t believe it was her because she hadn’t been heard from in so long. She called the cousin long enough to whisper, “it’s me.”
On the day police came for the welfare check, the woman’s eardrum was broken because Moore didn’t like the food she’d prepared.
One of the children found the phone and contacted their grandmother. Sweeney said the child told the grandmother not to call the police because they were afraid of what would happen if the officers showed up. The grandmother called police anyway.
Burchett said that had the case gone to trial, Moore would have disputed much of the evidence presented by the prosecutors. He also said there would have been defense witnesses who would have testified that they saw nothing amiss when they were at Moore’s home and that there were plenty of times that Moore was gone long enough for the woman and children to leave.
Moore will face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison when he is sentenced April 17. Prosecutors said they expect to present far more evidence than was mentioned during Thursday’s summary; the sentencing hearing is expected to take a full day.
All three victims are now living in another state.