A now 12-year-old girl said the pain of starvation was like "somebody was stabbing me through the heart" during her testimony Friday in the trial of a man accused of locking her and her brothers in a hotel bathroom.
The worst part, she said from the witness stand, was having no one to love.
"I had my brothers," she said. "But I had no mom. I had no dad."
Her mother's boyfriend, Alfred Santiago, is on trial on charges of injury to a child and continuous sexual abuse in relation to the girl. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. Two more charges of injury to a child are pending -- those involving the boys.
The Dallas Morning News reports the girl testified there was a time the children loved Santiago. Then, she said, he began beating and starving them.
"I thought he was a monster," the girl said.
The girl and her younger brothers, then 5 and 10, were rescued a year ago by an uncle and police. The emaciated children were found in a filthy bathroom at an extended-stay hotel in Dallas. They had been living there with Santiago and their mother, Abneris Santiago. The two were not married but were both born with the same last name.
A 1-year-old who is the biological daughter of Alfred Santiago was found healthy in the hotel room. All the children have different fathers.
On Friday, the girl talked about numerous incidents of sexual abuse by Alfred Santiago, starting when the family lived in Florida. She said he threatened to hurt her family if she told anyone.
The family moved to Dallas in 2007, and she said the abuse then became more severe and frequent.
She girl said that when locked in the bathroom, she would give up food so her brothers could have a bit more. "I knew they needed it more than me," she said.
A forensic interviewer broke down in tears while testifying earlier Friday about the children's condition. Jessie Gonzales, who has interviewed more than 2,000 abused children, said these three were "like nothing I've ever seen before."
She was the third witness to testify that the girl and her brothers resembled victims of the Holocaust.
A doctor testified Thursday that the three children were given just enough food to stay alive. He said the girl told him that she and her brothers were fed once a day, eating tiny amounts of chicken and rice with a few sips of juice.
Their mother's trial on one charge of injury to a child will start after Alfred Santiago's trial ends. She has two more injury to a child charges pending. She also faces up to life in prison.
The children's maternal grandmother has been granted custody of all four of her daughter's children.