A judge Thursday sentenced a Modesto father and stepmother to 13 years in prison each for abusing their 3-year-old girl so severely she spent weeks in the hospital.
Prosecutors called it one of the most serious cases of physical abuse they had seen in their careers.
The Indulas told police they beat the 3-year-old and her 5-year-old sister with electrical cords and a broomstick. The younger girl spent six weeks in a hospital recovering from life-threatening head injuries and suffered permanent burn scars, authorities said.
"During the first several months of this case, I didn't think the 3-year-old victim would have such a remarkable recovery from her horrific injuries she received at the hands of her own father and stepmother," prosecutor Elaine Casillas said after the sentencing. "Although she is in a healthier environment and appears very happy, she will always have the scars on her legs to remind her of the trauma."
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Casillas read a statement from the girls' adoptive mother, who did not come to court.
"She's glad (the case) is over, and the girls are happy," Casillas said.
Terry and Chandy Indula originally faced torture charges that could have sent them to prison for life. But prosecutors would have needed to prove the Indulas derived pleasure from beating the children rather than doing so only to punish them.
Instead, this month the Indulas pleaded guilty to five felonies, including mayhem, child abuse and inflicting corporal injury on a child. They admitted an enhancement of causing great bodily injury and gave up their rights to appeal their conviction.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley sentenced the Indulas to 13 years and four months in prison, the maximum sentence for the five charges. They must serve at least 11 years.
The Indulas called 911 about 1 p.m. Nov. 11, 2006, because the 3-year-old was not breathing. She was flown to Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland, where she had two surgeries.
The little girl had too many bruises and cuts to count, along with permanent burn marks, her doctor testified in court.
When the 5-year-old girl was questioned about the beating that sent her younger sister to the hospital, she told an investigator that "bad daddy" and "bad mommy" hit the children with belts and wires, according to a video played in court. She said her little sister lay face down and unclothed as her father and his wife delivered the blows.
Modesto police Detective Eric Jones said Chandy Indula told investigators her husband hit his daughters because they reminded him of his first wife.
Chandy Indula also talked of "whooping" the older girl with a cord, Jones said, but said she stopped because she knew it was wrong. She told the detective she did not try to stop Terry Indula from disciplining his daughters.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.