US man ‘raped, scalded half-sister’

2011-04-13 11:33

New York - A man accused of raping and scalding his half-sister before their mother killed her last year made the mentally disabled woman "a tortured prisoner", a prosecutor said on Tuesday at the start of his trial.

Luke Wright, 32, is charged with physically assaulting and sexually abusing 23-year-old Laura Cummings.

Prosecutors say he severely burned her face with a pot of boiling water, scalded her buttocks in a bathtub, raped her and forcibly sodomised her with a broomstick.

He also faces counts of unlawful imprisonment for keeping her tied to a chair to prevent her from running away, and endangering the welfare of an incompetent person.

Last two months of tortured life

"He hated when Laura stared at him," Assistant District Attorney Kristin St Mary told an Erie County Court jury, describing the victim as "childlike".

"He would tell her to stare down at the floor, and when she looked up, he would put a hood over her head."

While authorities have said Laura Cummings endured years of abuse, the charges focus on the last two months of her life, when they said the abuse by Wright and their mother, Eva Cummings, escalated.

"Her brother, the defendant, made her a tortured prisoner," St Mary said.

Eva Cummings pleaded guilty in October to second-degree murder, admitting that she smothered her daughter with her bare hands in their home in rural North Collins, 30km south of Buffalo, in January 2010. She is serving up to life in prison.

Defence: Brother is mentally disabled

"Every day and night for the last two months of her life, Laura was bound and tied to a chair," said St Mary, relying heavily on what Wright told police after Cummings' death.

"Laura did not sleep in a bed. Laura did not have a bed."

Defence attorney John Nuchereno cautioned jurors against believing the 60 pages of statements that Wright gave investigators.

Wright was mentally disabled from birth and brain damaged from childhood beatings with baseball bats and bricks inside a "house of horrors" controlled by his mother, the attorney said.

"It was a home without a heart," Nuchereno said.

The trial is expected to last about a week. Wright faces up to life in prison if convicted.

- AP

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