NASHUA -- "Torture." That was the word the 9-year-old victim used to describe the punishment he said his parents inflicted on him and his siblings by binding them with duct tape, beating them with a belt and holding their heads underwater in the bathtub so long they were gasping for breath.
In one of the worst child-abuse cases Nashua police say they've seen, Jodi and Robert Dionne admitted to police that they agreed to use these forms of punishment on their four young children, three boys and a girl, ages 9, 8, 6 and 5, according to court documents.
The punishment includes using duct tape over the children's arms, legs and mouths to secure them to chairs and then leave them in a locked bedroom. There are also allegations that Jodi Dionne would hold the children's heads underwater in the bathtub for up to 30 seconds as punishment.
Jodi Dionne allegedly told police she would discipline her children by "holding their heads underwater until they gasped for air and began to flail their arms and legs. ... Then she would pull them back up for air." The children described it as being "drowned," according to court documents.
Jodi Dionne told police that Robert Dionne, whom she divorced last year, also frequently hit the children with a belt.
"He was beating the crap out of them," she said, according to court documents. One beating left bloody welt marks on one child's leg.
Robert Dionne told police he was the primary disciplinarian, saying, "I'm the dad and the boss of the home," according to court documents.
He admitted he would use duct tape on the children's hands and feet like handcuffs and shackles, treating his children in the same way police would treat an "everyday criminal," according to documents.
But it wasn't all for punishment.
Before she was arrested Thursday on reckless conduct charges, Jodi Dionne told police that she and Robert Dionne bound the children's hands and legs to chairs with duct tape and taped their mouths shut, then locked the bedroom door while the parents left for several hours to go "drink and smoke weed."
Jodi and Robert Dionne, along with Jodi Dionne's former boyfriend, Lukeus Poirier, were arrested Thursday night following a lengthy investigation after a complaint from the state Division of Children, Youth and Families regarding allegations of abuse between 2002 and 2005.
Poirier faces charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault and second-degree assault. He is accused of molesting the girl and using a belt to beat one of the boys. After Jodi Dionne and her husband separated in 2004, Poirier dated and lived with Jodie Dionne for a time.
The children were all removed from the mother's home in February 2006 and placed in foster care after an investigation by the state DCYF based on reports of suspicious bruises. The allegations came to light after the children disclosed the alleged abuse to their foster parents.
In Nashua District Court yesterday, Jodi Dionne, 26, of Nashua, was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after being charged with four counts of reckless conduct, while Robert Dionne, 29, also of Nashua, was ordered held on $300,000 cash bail on four counts of criminal restraint.
Nashua Police Officer Bill Hamilton had asked that Jodi Dionne's bail be raised to $500,000, "not only due to the potential psychological long-term damage these kids may have suffered, but because the abuse could have resulted in "severe injury of death."
Wiping tears from her eyes, Jodi Dionne told the judge, "I can't afford $100,000."
Karl Finney, Jodi Dionne's new boyfriend, described his girlfriend as a "wonderful, kind and caring person."
But Finney's estranged wife, Carla Finney, said she wasn't surprised by the charges.
"My stepdaughter told me a year ago that Jodi slapped her across the face," Carla Finney said. Although she said she told her husband and family members, "no one took it seriously."
On Thursday night, she was watching television when she saw Jodi Dionne's picture in a story describing the allegations.
"I was laying on the couch and saw her picture. I sat right up. I told them a year ago what was going on," she said.
Although her children have not told her of any alleged abuse, Carla Finney said, "I just want to make sure she (Jodi Dionne) is not allowed around them."
While Judge Gerald Carney kept Jodi Dionne's bail at $100,000, he increased her estranged husband's bail to $300,000 up from $100,000, noting his 1999 and 2001 assault convictions and a 2003 restraining order taken out against him by his wife.
Poirier, 32, also of Nashua, was held on $250,000 cash bail.
The trio did not enter pleas.
Officer Hamilton said the probe is continuing and there could be additional charges.
Poirier has convictions in 2004 for domestic violence assault, a 1998 conviction for violation of a restraining order and 1999 conviction for theft.
Court documents show that three women have taken out restraining orders against Poirier and he took out one against one of the women.
Christian Radzik, Poirier's pregnant girlfriend and the mother of his other children, was in tears outside the courtroom claiming her boyfriend would never hurt a child.
"Why accuse him of this? He's never hurt his own children," she said. "I think the charges are bogus. My kids love their father."
Jodi Dionne is scheduled for a probable-cause hearing on Feb. 21, while Robert Dionne and Poirier are scheduled for a Feb. 22 hearing.
Lisa Redmond's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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