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'Mom cooks me in oven'

world Updated: Feb 07, 2009 17:04 IST

Hamtramck cops stumbled onto the graphic allegations of burnings, beatings and torture after the girl's mother phoned police on January 23 and confessed to "harming her children," Detective Ben Bielecki told

Detroit News

on Thursday.

The license plate in the window of the family Cadillac reads "Best Dad."

While interrogation, a four-year-old girl told police "Mom cooks me like a turkey in the oven" and she wasn't kind.

The allegations belied outside appearances of a happy family, shocking neighbours of the family whose front picture window is adorned with the sign "1 God."

"They were new to the neighbourhood," said Deandre Martin, 28, who lives next door to the white, two-story home near Holbrook. "I didn't realize what was going on. It's horrific. I'm just happy the kids are alive."

Reyna Valentino, 40, a mother of five, faces life in prison on allegations that she burned her 4-year-old daughter in an oven, used a hot nail or screwdriver to singe her eyelids and beat her 5-year-old daughter's leg with a pry bar.

She was arraigned on Wednesday on felony charges of first-degree child abuse and torture in 31st District Court.

The four year old was interrogated by the police officials.

"She said, 'Her heart is hurt and broke because momma doesn't love me anymore,' " Bielecki read from the report.

"Mom cooks me like a turkey in the oven. I felt fire. It burned my back," he read. "She hurts me with a screwdriver all the time."

Police said Valentino's husband, Randy, wasn't home and there's no evidence that he abused their children.

After the incident, Valentino called police about 3 p.m. to come get her.

"She said she is harming her family," Bielecki said. "It's extreme. It's an awful thing that's happened. I just hope she doesn't get custody of the kids -- ever."

The couple has three other children, two boys believed to be 7 and 8 years old and an infant who is about 8 months, Bielecki said.

All five children are in foster care and doing well, he said. Martin said police removed them from the house about a week ago.

Martin said the family moved in during the fall. He never saw Valentino but said her children were always smiling, laughing and seemingly healthy.

Valentino spent more than a week undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at Detroit Receiving Hospital after the incident.

She's now being housed in the Wayne County Jail awaiting a preliminary hearing on Thursday. Social Services officials are assessing her mental condition, police said.

Valentino will have a court-appointed lawyer next week, court officials said.