Thursday, June 21, 2007

Child Abduction and Torture in Wisconsin: Police Tip Leads to Missing Girl, Tortured Youth

"Hahn said the boy's condition was the worst he has seen during his 26 years in law enforcement. When authorities found him in a closet, he said, the boy was starving and covered with burns from boiling water. A pediatrician confirmed the child had been serially tortured and intentionally kept from eating. ... "

Adrian G. Uribarri
S. Fla. Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer
June 16, 2007

The trail to a 2-year-old girl abducted from Lake County in 2006 never grew cold for a deputy sheriff, and this week it led to the child in Wisconsin and a grisly discovery there.

Authorities located missing Courtney Alisa Clark on Thursday, along with three other children. On Friday, they found a malnourished 11-year-old boy who appeared to have been tortured many times and uncovered a woman's body buried in a backyard since around Memorial Day.

Three adults, including Courtney's birth mother, are in custody in Wisconsin, authorities said.

A tip from the Lake County Sheriff's Office led authorities in Portage, Wis., to a home where they found the woman's body, Courtney and the others.

Portage police visited the home Thursday after Lake County Detective Jim Vachon learned the boyfriend of Courtney's mother, Candace L. Clark, could be living there.

Michaela Clerc

When they arrived Thursday, they did not find Michael S. Sisk. But police found four children -- including Courtney -- and two women. They arrested the women and took custody of the children. After interviewing the adults, police returned to the house Friday to find the abused boy hidden in a closet and the body of a 35-year-old woman buried at least 6 feet in the backyard. Arrested with Clark, 23, was Michaela S. Clerc, 20.

The discoveries stemmed from a monthslong search by Vachon.

"If it wasn't for him, we would have never found this," said Lt. Mark Hahn of the Portage Police Department. "An 11-year-old boy's life was possibly saved."

Hahn said the boy's condition was the worst he has seen during his 26 years in law enforcement. When authorities found him in a closet, he said, the boy was starving and covered with burns from boiling water. A pediatrician confirmed the child had been serially tortured and intentionally kept from eating.

"It was horrendous," Hahn said. "I'm not sure how much longer he could have taken the torture and abuse."

Hahn said it took a state agency hours to excavate the body, which authorities think was the mother of the boy and his 15-year-old sister.

"We don't know for sure how she was killed," he said. "It was a very, very deep grave."

Sisk, who fled the home before authorities realized he was inside, was arrested in Milwaukee, police said. He and Candace Clark, who was accused of taking Courtney from foster care in October, were charged with physical abuse of a child. Clark also was charged with obstructing, and charges are pending in the death of the 35-year-old woman, whose name was not released.

Lake County Sgt. Christie Mysinger, a sheriff's spokeswoman, said Vachon's search began Jan. 25, when a caseworker from the Safe Children Coalition in Pinellas County contacted the Sheriff's Office about Courtney.

Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at or 352-742-5926.,0,3704847.story?coll=sfla-newsnation-front
Search for missing Central Florida tot leads to Wisconsin house of horrors

4 charged with homicide, abuse

Associated Press

June 21, 2007, 10:06 AM EDT

PORTAGE, Wis. -- Police initially went to a rental property in this sleepy Wisconsin town in search of a 2-year-old girl kidnapped from her Florida foster home by her mother last fall.

What they found was a house of horrors, detectives say: A roving band of suspected identity thieves who had killed one of their own, buried her in the backyard and locked her bloody and beaten 11-year-old son in an upstairs closet.

"It's crazy. Weird,'' said next-door neighbor Angie Turley, who moved from Milwaukee to Portage to get away from crime. "It can happen anywhere.''

Charged Wednesday with being a party to first-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse and child abuse are Candace Clark, 23; Clark's boyfriend, Michael Sisk, 25; Michaela Clerc, 20; and Felicia Mae Garlin, 15.

The teen is the dead woman's daughter and the sister of the boy in the closet.

Police said the group arrived in February in Portage, a town of 8,000 about 40 miles north of Madison that touts itself as ``Where the North Begins.''

The group was joined by Garlin's mother, Tammie Garlin; her 11-year-old brother; and three other children, including the kidnapped girl.

Detectives said the group was running from the law in several states. Clark was wanted in Florida in her 2-year-old daughter's abduction, as well as in Kentucky on felony warrants for financial fraud, Columbia County District Attorney Jane Kohlwey said.

Sisk was wanted in Colorado for not returning to jail after he was let out on work release, Kohlwey said. In the past year, the group had lived in Florida, Maine, Tennessee, Kentucky and Colorado, and came to Wisconsin to see snow, a criminal complaint said.

The group was making a living through financial fraud using aliases, prosecutors said. Kohlwey said investigators found a stash of money orders in the house, each good for $500, made out to the fake names.

They tortured the 11-year-old _ identified in the complaint only by his initials _ by whipping him, withholding food, scalding him with hot water and pulling his genitals with pliers, the complaint said. The group sometimes choked him until he nearly passed out and forced him to sleep naked in his sister's closet, prosecutors said.

His mother and sister helped torture him, prosecutors said.

At some point, the group turned on Tammie Garlin, burning her and forcing her into the closet with the boy, he told authorities. She was the only one who helped him, by putting cream on his wounds, he said.

The complaint said Tammie Garlin and Clerc had been lovers but had separated, and that Clerc was upset because she thought Tammie Garlin had cheated on her. Detectives, however, said they weren't sure why the others turned against Tammie Garlin.

Police said Clark told them Tammie Garlin died June 4. According to the complaint, Felicia Garlin and Clerc had kicked her, then later that day carried her into the bathroom, where Clerc dropped her head on the floor.

Sisk went into the bathroom and shut the door. He emerged a few minutes later, announcing Tammie Garlin was dead. Clerc laughed, the complaint said.

They buried her in the backyard. The landlord said Sisk approached him a few weeks ago asking if he could plant a garden in the spot.

He never got around to it. Florida detectives were closing in.

Portage officers, alerted by sheriff's deputies in Lake County, Fla., went to the house June 14. They found the missing toddler, along with Clark's two other children, and caught her trying to give them a false name, the complaint said.

Police found the 11-year-old sitting on the closet floor with his knees pulled to his chest, his body a mess of cuts, burns and scars. His feet were burned so badly he couldn't walk.

The complaint said the boy told a doctor, ``I don't want to hurt no more.''

Police captured Sisk at a Milwaukee bus terminal with a ticket to Kentucky the next day. Police caught him because his bus had been delayed, police Lt. Mark Hahn said.

A judge on Wednesday denied bail for Sisk and Clark, identified by prosecutors as the group's leaders. He set bail at $500,000 for Felicia Garlin and $350,000 for Clerc.

Defense attorneys said the allegations in the complaint are unproven and they don't have the money to flee. But Judge Alan White said all four posed a flight risk.

Hahn said investigators were trying to piece together the group's activities and whereabouts across the country.

``We could have victims from all over in different parts of the country,'' he said. ``Fortunately, it ended here.''
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