PHOENIX - A Phoenix couple was arrested for a series of child abuse charges that included them allegedly beating, starving and mentally torturing their 9-year-old daughter.
Thirty-seven-year-old Melissa Nicole Loyd and 43-year-old Michael Dugger remained behind bars Tuesday night accused of abusing two of their four children.
At the time of her arrest Loyd was already on lifetime probation for a child abuse case involving her oldest daughter, Ronshai Loyd, who is now 22 years old.
When 12 News spoke with Ronshai Tuesday night she defended her mother saying Loyd doesn’t deserve to be in jail.
“I want my mom to get her kids back and to get her life back,” Ronshai said.
“[My sisters] were happy, they would sing with my mom, my sisters are safe,” Ronshai said, “My mom had them in church.”
Loyd's social media pages are full of videos showing her laughing and singing with her daughters, a stark contrast to the allegations laid out in court documents.
In them, Phoenix Police say the 9-year-old was malnourished, had a large untreated sore on her back and multiple lacerations, bruises and fractures in various states of healing.
The report also says the couple's 9- and 10-year-old daughters told investigators they had been beaten with a 3- to 4-foot stick wrapped in duct tape and that the 9-year-old was forced to eat food out of the trash.
“It's a lie, everything is a lie,” Ronshai told 12 News.
Ronshai says she's never seen witnessed any abuse or injuries and denies that she was ever abused by her mother back in the previous abuse case that led to Loyd being placed on lifetime probation.
“It wasn't as severe as they made it seem,” Ronshai said.
Court papers also say the 9-year-old was removed from her parent’s custody at 3 weeks old and returned when she was 2 years old.
We called the Arizona Department of Child Safety to find out the family’s history with the agency.
Late Tuesday night they sent us a response detailing any previous abuse claims against the couple and the results of the investigations.
It documents a series of reports and says that in this most recent case DCS workers refused to leave the home until they were allowed to see the children.
Police were then able to gain entrance.
The 9-year-old was removed and taken to the hospital for treatment.
According to DCS she had several broken bones and was diagnosed with refeeding syndrome due to starvation.
Here is some of Loyd and Dugger’s history with the agency, from a statement from DCS:
"The DCS had prior history with the couple, including a dependency case resulting in the placement of their children into foster care from 2006 to 2009. The parents successfully completed support services and per court order, were reunited with their children in 2009."
Documents show DCS investigated unsubstantiated reports in 2004 and 2005. The report continues:
"On September 19, 2006, a report was received alleging physical abuse to the current victim’s sibling by the mother, Melissa Loyd. The allegation was substantiated and resulted in the removal of all of the children from the home. The Department filed a dependency petition with the Maricopa County Juvenile Court and was providing services to the family when a subsequent report was received.
On June 5, 2007, a report was received regarding the current victim’s birth and concerns regarding Melissa Loyd and Michael Dugger. Since this child was born during the open dependency case and due to the prior substantiated physical abuse to her sibling, there were concerns that this newborn would be abused as well. The child was removed, placed into foster care and added to the dependency case. The allegations were unsubstantiated."
There was an unsubstantiated report to DCS in 2012. The report continues:
"On July 16, 2016, the Department of Child Safety received an anonymous call alleging physical abuse and neglect regarding one of their children, but there was no valid address given. An investigation was initiated, and the agency began extensive efforts to find the child; including searching the Department of Education’s database. The children were not enrolled in school. On October 3, 2016, a second call alleging neglect, physical and emotional abuse was received by the DCS Hotline. This report included a valid address. An investigative team responded and enlisted the help of the Phoenix Police Department. DCS and Police were met outside of the residence by Melissa Loyd who repeatedly said the child in question was not home. She offered to retrieve the child from a relative and contact DCS later in the evening. DCS staff refused to leave without seeing the child, and with the help of police officers, gained access to the residence and found the victim in deplorable condition.
On October 3, 2016, a second call alleging neglect, physical and emotional abuse was received by the DCS Hotline. This report included a valid address. An investigative team responded and enlisted the help of the Phoenix Police Department. DCS and Police were met outside of the residence by Melissa Loyd who repeatedly said the child in question was not home. She offered to retrieve the child from a relative and contact DCS later in the evening. DCS staff refused to leave without seeing the child, and with the help of police officers, gained access to the residence and found the victim in deplorable condition.She was immediately removed from the home and hospitalized. The child was found to have numerous broken bones and was diagnosed with refeeding syndrome due to starvation. On October 18, 2016, the parents were arrested for child abuse. The swift response of law enforcement and the agency is believed to be the reason the child is safe today."
Report any abuse of a child to the DCS hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD.