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November 4, 1970, “Genie” Is Discovered, Exposing Bizarre Child Abuse Case - Today In Crime History

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On this day, November 4, in the year 1970, “Genie” a feral child, who spent nearly all of the first thirteen years of her life locked inside a bedroom surrounded by chicken wire and strapped to a potty chair by day, was discovered by Los Angeles authorities.  She was a victim of one of the most severe cases of social isolation in American history.  “Genie” is the pseudonym given to the child by subsequent care givers, to protect her privacy.

Genie was discovered at the age of 13 when her mother left her husband and took Genie with her. On November 4, 1970, the two entered a public assistance office in Temple City, California, where the mother, who was almost blind, applied for disability benefits.  A social worker met them and guessed that Genie was 6 or 7 years old and possibly autistic. When it was revealed that she was actually 13, the social worker immediately called her supervisor, who then notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Upon investigation law enforcement investigators soon determined that Genie had the physical development of an eight-year-old due primarily to her sub-standard diet.  She weighed 59 pounds when found.  Genie wore diapers and couldn't talk.  The house where the child had been kept most of her life was completely dark and all the blinds were drawn. The child’s room was at the back of the house with the window covered. The furnishings of the room consisted of a cage with a chicken-wire lid, and a potty chair with a home-made strapping device on top designed to restrain the child in place.

Genie’s parents were both arrested and charged with child abuse.  Just before her father was scheduled to appear in criminal court to be arraigned, he shot and killed himself.  In Genie’s mother’s criminal case, evidence was presented to establish that she was terrified of her husband and his bizarre behavior.  Evidence established that she had been trying to escape from her abusive and controlling husband with her daughter.  At the urging of her criminal defense attorney, the presiding criminal court judge dismissed the child abuse charges against Genie’s mother.

As of 2008 Genie was a ward of the state of California in a private institution for the mentally undeveloped — the location of the institution and her current name are unknown


Sources and more information:

countyhistorian.com: Genie Wiley

Genie: The Los Angeles Wild Child

Raised by a Tyrant, Suffering a Sibling's Abuse

Wikipedia: Genie (feral child)

Tagged in: child abuse

Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.