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Paraplegic accused of abuse, criminal activity with children

A paraplegic is accused of intimidating his girlfriend's children into burglarizing homes to support his crack habit and forcing her 13-year-old daughter to have sex with him.

From his wheelchair, Darell Brooks, 21, terrified his girlfriend's children into going on a crime spree, the children testified Tuesday at his trial.

"We used to break in homes for him, and sometimes we'd break in cars," a 10-year-old boy testified before Circuit Judge Mary Lupo. "We were afraid of him, and we just did what he said."

Brooks, whom the children occasionally called "Dad," is charged with 27 counts of sexual activity with a child and one count each of aggravated assault and battery.

He sat impassively as three of the four children took the stand to describe tight living conditions, neglect from their mother and abuse from their stand-in father.

Prosecutors say Brooks introduced his girlfriend to crack, forced her daughter to have sex with him more than 50 times between January and August 1991, and coerced two of her sons, ages 10 and 11, into burglarizing homes.

The boys testified they had to move into progressively poorer living quarters as their mother's crack addiction worsened. Brooks instructed them to break into homes and cars, steal valuables and pawn them, they said.

"He said go first to the parents' bedroom, get jewelry and money, then go to the living room and get the VCR if they have one, and then leave," the 11-year-old testified. "We had to do that because Darell told us we had to get him some money."

Both boys said they frequently saw Brooks in bed with their sister, but they didn't tell their mother.

"He said if we left the house or told anyone, he would shoot us all," the 11-year-old said. "I think he was going to try and kill us."

The boys and their mother, who is in drug treatment, were arrested during a burglary spree last August, the boys on burglary charges and the mother on charges of burglary and contributing to the delinquency of minors.

A month later, the 13-year-old girl told her mother about the sexual episodes, which she said were so frequent she lost count.

"I was scared. I had the feeling that if she knew, she would kill me or something," the girl testified tearfully. "I was afraid she wouldn't love me anymore."

She said he forced her to have sex. "I told him it was sickening. He told me I had no choice."