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Mom and stepdad who waterboarded 10-year-old girl and set her on fire get decades behind bars

Chloe Rae Sergent (L) and Keola Cachero Wimbish (R) appear in mugshots

Chloe Rae Sergent, on the left, and Keola Cachero Wimbish, on the right, appear in mugshots from April 2022. (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

An Arizona woman and man will spend the next two decades behind bars for the extreme child abuse, torture, and neglect of the woman’s 10-year-old daughter, prosecutors announced this week.

Chloe Rae Sergent, 27, and Keola Cachero Wimbish, 40, were each sentenced to 20 years in state prison, according to a Tuesday press release issued by the Maricopa County Attorney. Earlier this year, they both pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse. The victim’s mother also pleaded guilty to one count of attempted child abuse; the victim’s stepfather pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child abuse.

Content warning: As Law&Crime previously reported, the extent of the cruelty meted out to Sergent’s daughter is particularly disturbing. Graphic depictions follow.

The victim was taken into state custody on Dec. 10, 2021. Doctors conducting a medical examination at a Phoenix-area hospital found that the girl had at least a dozen broken bones, was covered in scrapes and bruises and burns, and was suffering from a laceration so deep in her shin that bone was visible through the cut.

Medical staff also noted that several of the girl’s injuries were infected and had not received sufficient medical attention. The child was also determined to have suffered from chronic malnutrition.

Child welfare investigators and law enforcement would later learn the extent of the horrors she faced at home in suburban Glendale.

But first, the girl told a lie: she blamed some of the abuse she suffered on an uncle. The uncle denied any wrongdoing and told police he had seen both Wimbish and Sergent hitting the girl in November and December 2021. A second forensic interview revealed the truth: the girl had been told by her mom and stepdad to blame someone else.

In a likely explanation of her multiple broken bones, the girl would tell law enforcement that her stepfather beat her with a shocking array of weapons and on several different occasions. And both her mother and stepfather repeatedly punched her in the face, she said.

According to police, the weapons used against the girl included a machete, a crow bar, and a hammer. Wimbish was also accused of lacerating one of the girl’s fingers, choking her while holding her body against a door, and forcing the girl’s hand to touch him inappropriately.

The victim also said Wimbish had burned her with a metal straw.

The abuse sometimes took on distinct dimensions of torture.

When they were staying at another relative’s home, Wimbish waterboarded the girl with a bucket, and then set her on fire by pouring alcohol on her and using a lighter to start the blaze.

The girl also claimed Wimbish sexually abused her.

The victim told law enforcement Sergent broke her nose and burned her leg and that the couple forced her to do drugs from a straw. The girl also told police that Wimbish made one of her brothers hit her in the face with a hammer. Another child in the house would go on to corroborate some of the abuse the girl had gone through.

Police also interviewed Wimbish’s sister, who said she often saw the young girl with her feet and legs bandaged – and that she had never once seen the couple feed their often-injured child.

In interviews with police, both the mother and stepfather reportedly denied having anything to do with the abuse. Wimbish allegedly said he was aware of some of the girl’s injuries but never asked about them. In time, the defendants’ stories substantially changed.

The girl said the abuse began after Wimbish had an ankle monitor removed in December 2020 and continued until she was rescued.

At the time of the abuse, the girl lived with both adults and two siblings. Sergent and Wimbish were finally arrested in April 2022.

“The abuse this child suffered at the hands of the people who were supposed to love and care for her is horrific,” Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in the press release announcing the defendants’ sentences. “I’m particularly grateful to this young victim who was willing to bravely tell her story. Thanks to the intervention of a caring relative, thorough investigation by police, and hard work by MCAO prosecutors, justice was done.”

Once they are released from the Arizona Department of Corrections, both defendants will be placed on supervised probation for 10 years.

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