A twisted road into the hands of a child rape suspect

July 30, 2015
Dee Torres-Hill speaking on behalf of CAPSLO.

Dee Torres-Hill speaking on behalf of CAPSLO.


Editor’s Note: This is part two in a three-part series on how three children were taken from their parents and placed in a home with a man now accused of sexual assault. Find part one here.

Three San Luis Obispo children were taken from their homeless parents by the county’s Child Protective Service in 2002 and placed with a man now charged with rape, sodomy, and child molestation of the eldest child over a period of six years. The process that led to the removal of the children from their natural parents’ custody, placed them in foster care and eventually allowed them to be adopted by Robert John Bergner, 51, and his wife reflect a system lacking accountability and transparency.

Richard and Elizabeth Carroll left the Central Coast in the late 1990s. After living in North Carolina for four years, the couple moved back to the Central Coast in mid-2001 with their three children. At the time, the family lived out of an RV near Richard Carroll’s work at Mission Chevron while they searched for a new home. Elizabeth Cook was being treated for a bipolar disorder.

The couple sought housing from homeless services offered at the Prado Day Center by Community Action Partners of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO). But after several weeks of participating in case management — which required the couple to give 70 percent of their $1,700 monthly income to be held for future housing — the couple asked to have their monies returned, according to court records.

On Dec. 11, 2001, Elizabeth Carroll took her three children to the Prado Day Center and treated her 5-year-old daughter for lice. As Elizabeth Carroll pulled out nits, the child cursed at her. Elizabeth Carrol then slapped her daughter, causing her nose to bleed.

Prado Day Center Manager Dee Torres-Hill then took the child into her office and called the police. San Luis Obispo Police Officer Mike Brennler arrived and Torres-Hill told Brennler the child’s mother had “punched” the child in the nose.

CAPSLO employee Bobby McDonald was the only other employee at Prado who supported Torres-Hill’s claim.

Brennler, a former mayor of Atascadero and now licensed private investigator, interviewed the child at the scene.

Elizabeth Carroll with her children in 2001.

Elizabeth Carroll with her children in 2001.

In his report, Brennler said the child first repeated what Torres-Hill reported: That Elizabeth Carroll had punched her and in the past had spanked her younger brother.

The child then demonstrated the “punch” to Brennler showing an open-handed slap. Brennler determined, based on the child’s demonstration and “only very mild redness across the bridge of her nose” that she had been slapped, not punched, according to a police report dated Dec. 11, 2001. A physical check of the Carroll’s son also failed to support allegations of child abuse.

“I examined (child’s name) for evidence of child abuse, but did not notice bruises or abrasions consistent with child abuse,” Brennler said in the police report.

Nevertheless, Brennler decided to arrest Elizabeth Carroll, whose bipolar medication was being changed. Brenner said he wanted mental health services personnel to supervise the medication change.

“It should be noted that Elizabeth Carroll was cooperative throughout the incident, recognizing that she had acted inappropriately, and she also appeared remorseful for the behavior,” Brennler wrote in the police report. “Elizabeth Carroll also recognizes that she is in need of continued treatment by mental health.”

Two days after Brennler filed his police report, Torres-Hill called San Luis Obispo Child Welfare Services to make a statement. That statement, which differed from the police report, would be included in the official investigation narrative subsequently used to terminate the parental rights of Richard and Elizabeth Carroll.

“Dee said that both (daughter’s name) and (son’s name) said their mom punched (daughter’s name),” the Department of Social Services Dec. 18 narrative reads. “Dee heard Elizabeth’s explanation that it was a slap. Dee said she heard Elizabeth say she “hit her daughter because the bitch wouldn’t stay still.”

“Dee called (daughter’s name) into her office and asked her to demonstrate how mom had hit her. (Daughter’s name) punched Dee’s leg hard, with a closed fist. Dee also witnessed (daughter’s name) tell the police officer that her daddy hits her more than her mommy does.”

However, Brennler said the child didn’t say that her father hit her, something he would have been required to note in his report. A child’s statement about parental violence also would have required an investigation.

In the narrative, Torres-Hill also stated that even though she tried to walk the Carrolls thorough the process, the parents did not register their oldest child, a daughter, in time to attend the 2001/2002 school year. That statement would be repeated throughout court documents by social services workers.

In California, parents can in some cases elect to send their 4-year-old children to kindergarten. Nevertheless, the Carrolls decided not to have their daughter, who would not turn 5 until November, start kindergarten as a 4-year-old.

In addition, Torres-Hill said that the Carrolls were not treating the children for lice and that she had washed the oldest child’s hair herself several times and picked out the nits.

Multiple employees of the Prado Day Center and the Carrolls said lice was a major issue at that time in both the CAPSLO day center and at the night shelter. They said that Torres-Hill did not wash any of the clients’ hair herself.

“Dee never washed any of my children’s hair,” Elizabeth Carroll said.

Several former day center employees said they never witnessed the Carrolls abuse their children or fight amongst themselves, though they were aware Torres-Hill was upset with the family’s refusal to participate in case management.

“I never witnessed any abuse by the Carrolls,” said former day center supervisor Michelle Myers. “I knew Dee did not like the Carrolls.”

Several former employees also said Torres-Hill repeatedly called social services to investigate homeless parents.

“Dee would ask us to call CPS on clients for issues that should not have resulted in a CPS report,” said Joette Sunshine, a former day center employee.

After Elizabeth Carroll was arrested, Richard Carroll took several days off work to care for his children while he waited for his wife to return from county mental health. However, social services employees ordered him to begin raising his children as a single parent, Richard Carroll said.

On Dec. 14, 2001, Torres-Hill contacted county social services and said that Richard Carroll had mentioned selling his oldest child and that she was extremely concerned for the childrens’ safety, according to court documents.

“Reporting party (Torres-Hill) thinks the father is still hitting the children but being more secretive,” social services said in the Dec. 14 referral.

On Dec. 18, 2001, Torres-Hill asked Richard Carroll to come to the day center to discuss housing options, he said. But when he arrived at Prado, he was met by two social workers who said he could “do this the easy way or the hard way,” Richard Carroll recounted. He could get arrested while the allegations were investigated or he could agree to allow social services to take custody of his children during the investigation the social workers told him, Richard Carroll said.

Richard Carroll wept as he agreed to relinquish custody, according to court records.

Nevertheless, social services workers reported a different story in documents filed with the courts. Richard Carroll had relinquished custody of his children because he knew he was unable to care for them, the social workers wrote.

Social Services case workers then began a lengthy investigation into the childhoods of the Carroll parents. Neither had a criminal history as adults. County staff questioned the stability of Richard Carroll, noting that after his parents passed away when he was 11-years-old, he was placed in foster care.

In Aug. 2003, after foster parents Valerie and Robert Bergner said they were interested in adopting all three children, Superior Court Commissioner Sidney B. Findley terminated the parental rights of the Carrolls. His determination was based on court records that included Torres-Hills statements. In his ruling, Findley said he wanted the children to have better childhoods than their parents.

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  1. sock8her says:

    Well, there’s some of your true colors coming out. I feel bad you seem to want to spin the truth when really these kids are what matters.

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
    • DragonLady says:

      It seems your the one who likes to spin things. It is clear that you have no clue what you are talking about. And even one of the kids in question here as made a comment about people like you trying to start arguements. Deanna has ever right to sound pissed off. You have accused her by name of ot wanting the kids but she does. You know it is bad when a child involved in this comes out and tells people like you to stop.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
      • byefelicia says:

        Sounds to me like Sock8her needs to shove a shock in it. Nothing was spun and if anyone’s true colors are to stick up for themselves and speak the truth, then power to ya. You contradict yourself sock8er which makes you look like a liar! Hmmm
        You are right this is about the kids, whom you don’t seem to have their best interest by trying to discredit them victim, yet say they are victims. Which is it? Or bagging on the bio family, who clearly you don’t know. It would be fun to watch you eat your words about the victim when it all comes out in court!

        (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  2. tabatha bergner says:

    I believe that everyone needs to not argue and make up lies about the oldest sibling and the parents and everyone involved. You don’t know what really happened because none of you were there.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
    • DragonLady says:

      Your right, people weren’t there. So Sorry you and your sibblings are having to deal with what happened to your family.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • byefelicia says:

      Love to you!

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. DragonLady says:

    Really? May I ask how you know this? You would think the only people who would know where the kids ended up would be a Cws worker, the foster parents, kids them selves or maybe the Bergner’s. It isnt public information.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  4. sock8her says:

    I know the victim really well, she has been through a lot. She makes up a lot of stories as a coping or defense mechanism, they are going to have to sort through a whole bunch of lies to uncover the horrific truth. This article shows these kids have had it rough from day 1.

    (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
    • DragonLady says:

      Is this a fact? You claimed to know the bio parents as well but when asked bu a couple of people about them, you didn’t comment.

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
      • sock8her says:

        Actually, I don’t come on here that often so if I see a reply, then I comment. I’m happy to comment about any of them but I won’t throw them under the bus as well. There’s enough mudslinging around when the concern should be about getting help to the victims.

        (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
        • DragonLady says:

          Oh but you have tried. The victim makes up stories, remember you saying that? I know for a fact that you don’t know the Bio Parents so couldn’t know anything about them. So again- do as Tabatha Bergner said and give it up.

          (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. AmericaBeautiful says:

    Karen Veilie:
    Were there no extended family to care for the children? Was this even attempted?

    (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
    • kettle says:

      “family to care for the children?” I doubt they would do that because that would disrupt the adoption process, ie attachments to “other family” vs foster family.

      Also “the Carrolls’ two youngest children and the Bergners’ 10-year-old child have been placed with a friend of the Bergners in Nipomo because the county is insisting that the children remain together.”
      Friend of the arrestee and presumably a visitor to the home during the 2003-15 time period?

      I have 10$ on the guess that one of the CPS workers in 2003 is now a supervisor in the department, hence the panic and fortressing of Lee Collins and county management.

      Where are the checks and balances?

      (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
    • terryjohnston says:

      Dee Torres-Hill and Prado Child Care Center and the County of San Luis Obispo need to be sued by the Carroll family.

      Dee Torres-Hill (and the County) put these children in a horrible environment of abuse with their foster parents.

      Criminal charges should be filed against Dee Torres-Hill also.

      (6) 16 Total Votes - 11 up - 5 down
  6. hijinks2 says:

    The issue here, seems to be clear – incompetent, incompetent, incompetent management of this horrific situation. Dee Torres should be put behind bars with here idiot spouse – Adam Hill.

    (12) 26 Total Votes - 19 up - 7 down
  7. byefelicia says:

    I would like to point out the obvious…
    1. If anyone was concerned on the parents mental status, then there should of been a psych evaluation done. Was there? You can be bipolar and function. (I’m sure there are more Non diagnosed people out there than you could imagine.)
    2. The nose has small capillaries in it that bleeds easily. And if anyone tries to say that they have not or would never smack their kid in the mouth is full of BS. It does not make you a bad parent to do so. Also cursing as an adult is also a part of life and does not make you bad to do it in front of a child.
    3. I believe the point of this entire article is the fact that the original charges/accusations that got the children removed in the first place was proven wrong. Therefore, why weren’t the children returned? You want to know why… Homelessness. You don’t get your child taken away for being homeless but it sure is hard to get them back being homeless.

    Another point in this entire series that catches my attention is, the kids weren’t returned but instead placed in harms way. Way more harmful than being poor. Im curious to know how those adoptive parents were given the green light. Statistically there had to of been red flags. The average predator doesn’t wait 40 some odd years to start being a predator. Just saying.
    I’m sure there are people out there that are close to the adoptive parents that are kicking themselves because things are starting to add up. Things they’ve noticed all along but dismissed.

    (25) 41 Total Votes - 33 up - 8 down
    • BigRed says:

      “And if anyone tries to say that they have not or would never smack their kid in the mouth is full of BS.” A 5 year old girl? I can safely say you’re trash. Happy parenting. Keep making damaged people, twit.

      (-11) 29 Total Votes - 9 up - 20 down
      • byefelicia says:

        Clearly your in denial… A smack in the mouth is not abuse. Trash? The name calling and judgmental finger pointing is way worse than being honest. The reality is, the average parent will smack, pop, flick or open handed hit, however you would like to phrase it…in a reaction type manner. Again, not abuse nor a reason to be arrested.

        (15) 29 Total Votes - 22 up - 7 down
        • BigRed says:

          Yes I’m judging. This seems to be the place. Don’t hit little girls please.

          (-5) 23 Total Votes - 9 up - 14 down
          • kettle says:

            Yes you are judging and distracting from the far worse treatment received at the hands of the County of San Luis Obispo.

            So yes, any harm to a child is wrong, just ask Lee Collins.

            (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
      • DragonLady says:

        Wow resulting in name calling. Why? Because once again some one has said something that you don’t agree with. You want to talk about what type of parents makes Damaged people.- those who don’t discipline their children. That is why we have so many kids out there today who are unruly. disrespectful and even in trouble with the law. Those are Damaged kids- not a child who got snacked once in the mouth.

        (13) 27 Total Votes - 20 up - 7 down
        • BigRed says:

          Talk to child psychologists to confirm how wrong you are.

          (-6) 16 Total Votes - 5 up - 11 down
          • DragonLady says:

            Walk around town and tell me that the kids who aren’t disciplined are perfect angels. You can’t learn wrong or right with out being taught so which includes getting in trouble and reprimanded for doing so. Those who are allowed to do as they please turn out to have more issues not only with the concept of right and wrong but adjusting to a society where you are expecting to not only know better but to right. And you can talk to your Child psychologist about that.

            Just because you seem to live in a world of Denial and imagine an ideal society where everything is happy and perfect does not mean real life is like that.

            (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
            • BigRed says:

              Whose talking about withholding discipline? I’m taking about hitting a little girl in the face. Get a grip and take your straw man argument elsewhere. If your hitting your 5 year old girl, you’re a shitty parent.

              (3) 15 Total Votes - 9 up - 6 down
              • DragonLady says:

                Umm to answer your question “Whose talking about withholding discipline” I made a comment about it vs a child having there mouth smacked once. Which lead us to where we are now in this thread. DO you even read what is written or do you pick out words and reply? Again with the language and such. No one has cussed at you or called you names or suggested your a bad parent yet you insist on doing so when ever someone shares their point of view. And you only get worse when they defend themselves and their opinion or observations.

                (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
                • BigRed says:

                  I read every word and what I pick up is that “discipline” and “hitting” seem to be the same thing to you. There are many ways to discipline without assault. The idea that there is no middle ground is another augmentative fallacy your employing. I don’t know or care if your a parent… You’re defending physical assault of a child. And it seems you prefer home-spun, backwoods tradition to what modern psychology tells us the ramifications of such behavior are. Kind of gross.

                  (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
              • Moderator says:

                Enough about each other, enough round and around.

                (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
            • newscruzer1 says:

              I’m not quite sure I understand you fully, but if you’re suggesting what I think you are by saying, “when disciplining a child it’s ok to smack them in the mouth”.
              I would strongly take exception with that approach when attempting to discipline a child.
              The definition of the word discipline is to train to act in accordance with a rule.
              So when trying to train a child and they don’t act in accordance with your rule,”smack em in the mouth!
              Now, that’s the sign of a great teacher,”not”
              What you’ve accomplished is traumatize the child for life, and caused them to be totally confused as to what the real meaning of love is.
              Way to go!
              Reminds me of that song, “when will they learn, when will they ever learn”.

              (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
              • DragonLady says:

                Again this has been blown out of proportion and taken the wrong way. I said no discipline at all for a child during their childhood is worse then if a parent slipped up and “smacked” their child in the mouth once. There is a difference in the one time verses doing it on multiple occasions.

                (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down

Comments are closed.