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.

Get links to breaking news stories, like CCN on Facebook.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

who the f*** does this lady think she is? and I really cant help but ask how the dad just signed the kids over? Ya well do this the easy way, here you go. I mean not all people/kids have the perfect upbringing, but I certainly couldn’t imagine signing my children over to the state/gov because some crazier lady who fabricates whatever stories to the police. almost makes you wonder who’s more mentally ill.

I’m either disgusted or amused by Torres and Hill 99% of the time. But I can’t get on board with this one.

The bio parents are a mess. The fact that a predator infiltrated the foster care system is not Dee’s fault.

The guy was a softball coach.. I’m sure they live-scanned him at some point… I hope that is the case.

The bi-polar issue, the hitting of their kid (1000 times worse for a little girl), they just seem incompetent when it comes to providing for their children. Placing the blame on the fact that the CAPSLO program director is shady seems like a stretch.

Predators can smell a victim a mile away… Sorry Mom and Dad… you’re culpable. If its OK to hit a girl in the face what else is it OK to do. Morons.

Somebody needed to intervene. F#@K PARENTAL RIGHTS! Yes I said it. I’ve seen the worst case scenario play out and am still cleaning up after these a-holes and their “rights”.

I think we’re barking up the wrong tree here.

PS…. Don’t get cocky Dee, you’re still an embarrassment.

Sounds like you are close to the matter at hand, how are you still cleaning up the mess? I read the kids were in a home with someone not involved in this story.

No… I’m dealing with another monster w/ Parental Rights.

Oh ok. Now I see where the hostility is coming from. I would kindly like to point out that the police found no signs of abuse except for the one smack. (according to their own reports) I bet most of the adults got a smack growing up at some point so does that mean they should have been taken from their homes? We’re there parents bad?

I am sorry you are dealing with a Monster w/parental rights in your life right now. I am sure it is frustrating for you.

Any parent who hits a little girl is weak. You can dismiss my thoughts because I”m “too close” all you want. But I’ve seen the reality of giving parents to much credit based on their DNA. These people were unstable, mother arrested, father attempting suicide, homeless, not participating in programs, mental disorders. Call it bad luck or incompetence. Somebody needs to be an advocate for kids. I’m sorry we have to depend on a shitty CPS for that duty but defending the parents is hard to swallow.

I didn’t claim to dismiss your thoughts. I said I now know where the hostility was coming from. Yes the father attempted suicide after the kids were gone and not being heard, Again another claim that Mentally Ill is a problem (seems to be a trend on this story), they tried to do the program but something caused them to stop (unknown factor) and another your homeless so you either have bad luck or are incompetent. You want to be an advocate for the kids is fine – have you talked to them and got their input on what was happening? What about the cases where they are returned to homes were they were severally beaten and hospitalized? Why because for some reason or another- they were not considered ‘Adoptable”. There are “Unstable” people as you call them raising kids every day. But I am getting off track- Findley stated the reasons he terminated their Parental rights was cause they were homeless and he didn’t want them to have a better childhood. Those are not reasons for taking kids.

I’ll make it simple:

Human Rights > Parental Rights

Some people are not a savvy as others when it comes to our government. I don’t think the father thought he would not be getting his children back.

The mother being bi polar does not make her a bad mom. And if you base these people of being incompetent on this article, shame on you.

You probably blame the rape victim on the clothes she is wearing too. YOU must be the parent of the world to call them culpable, they did not knowingly or willingly give these kids to a pedophile.

I think the system is messed up, and this family fell into the mess of it all because of lack of morals on so many levels and people.

Instead of blaming the parents why don’t we look to correct the problem so someone else does not get caught in the trap.

I hope the child gets the help she is going to need, that is what I would like to see come out of this.

I see more kids today who parents over indulge them doing very harmful things to others.I am not saying spanking a kid is right or wrong, but I think a parent ought to have boundaries and not want to be their kids best friend like I see all the time

I this the story is troubling on many levels and I hope we can correct the system before another child is harmed.Big Red calm down some YOU are over the top or you are the best parent the world has or will ever see.

Most people are mistaken that what people such as Ms.Torres and others in government of her type do is for the good of those they say they are helping when actually is much simpler, it is for the money. It is a common theme with the government, “Show me the Money”.

“Findley said he wanted the children to have better childhoods than their parents.”

What a knee-jerk jerk!

My question still stands…Dee, at any time did you knowingly place a child in the home of a man accused of assault?

I would love to hear Dee’s comments on what happened. No she didn’t place them there-Child Service did. But the records do show where she has lied in this case and I would love to her what she has to say about that. Not her husband since they were not together at this point in time (I don’t think) and he wasn’t involve. Will Dee come forward and make a statement?

If Dee Torres, Adam Hill or Bruce Gibson were to save a baby from drowning-there would be a way to damn them.

To me that would depend on whether or not they had tossed the baby into the water initially so they could claim they had “saved” it.

People are giving Dee Torres WAY too much credit. She isn’t a diety for goodness sake.

She does NOT have the power to 5150 Ms Carroll.

She does NOT have the power to force the removal of those kids.

She MUST report what she believes to be child abuse.

Here is what I have gathered from this “investigative report”.

1. We have a not quite 5 year old (she wasn’t in school at the time, so she was either 4 or 5) cursing at her bio mother while her mom attempted to pick out lice from her hair. I have to wonder about parenting when a 4 year old is cursing at mom. That is not a removable offense at all though.

2. My concern is that the mother hit this girl so hard IN FRONT OF PEOPLE that she caused her nose to bleed and her nose was STILL red when the police got there. People tend to behave better in public.

3. Mom’s “issues” with her bipolar meds. They put her in County Mental Health! You don’t just go in there for nothing!!!!

4. Parents participated in case management “for several weeks” before no longer continuing to participate in case management services. Did they really expect to be in a section 8 place in 3 weeks?!?!!! Tell that to the 4000+++ other people who are waiting…. It takes some time.

This article is again biased. Dee Torres in only ONE person. There is a PROCESS that occurs by which MULTIPLE professionals try to help families reunify. Why are we not seeing this part? I am not seeing Mental health, I am not seeing counselors for the kids, I am not seeing the reports from CASA workers, from people who were involved and had specifics.

What I have learned is that Calcoastnews thinks Dee Torres sucks. I have no opinion of her really, other than articles make her seem annoying and self serving. Then I read crap like this article, and it makes me want to take her out for coffee and see what she is REALLY about.

HIPAA privacy laws prevent protected health information from being released. There is probably a lot more to this story that we will never see.

Yes, and “…Brennler decided to arrest Elizabeth Carroll…”

Why would Brennler ARREST Elizabeth??? It had to be more than simply slapping her child and needing to change her medication. Perhaps Brenner thought she was a danger to herself and/or others? I also wonder, do people actually get arrested to be placed in protective custody? Or, was there some other crime that she committed, or perhaps she taken in on warrants? Brenner should explain what happened in the next article.

The article clearly indicates that Elizabeth was still locked up seven days after the arrest when social workers ambushed Richard and threatened him with incarceration if he didn’t give up the kids. There must be more to her story if she was locked up for over a week, no? And, what did they have against him that he would give up his kids on the spot???

The more I read about the Carroll’s, the stranger things appear.

Should the children be in the custody of someone that has a mental disability causing long periods of “treatment” in a”county mental health” facility? While you downplay that as “not in jail,” you don’t end up there exhibiting normal behavior. Obviously the actions leading to that prove that the children are at risk. Picking lice out of hair in public? Slapping a kid so hard that their nose bled? If she did that to a “partner” she would be in jail for domestic abuse.

Again I would like to ask where the story says anything about a length of time. Or are you saying no one with a mental health issue seeking treatment shouldn’t have their kids. Where does it talk about the behavior she was exhibiting? ;

Really? “She went into county mental health.” She slapped the kid in public drawing blood. If the kid ended up dead everyone would be wondering what happened. Child Services assessed the situation and did what they thought was best. A predator fooled them into getting access. Should they be accountable for that. YES! But had the parent been a suitable parent, this would not have happened. Put the blame where it belongs.

WHOA now you’re demonstrating a some serious sheltering. Many people have been raised by one or more parents that has had mental health issues, diagnosed or not. A huge percentage of people do not have an idyllic life and their kids turn out just fine. On the same note, when people are homeless they don’t exactly have a lot of privacy. There is nothing wrong with her “picking lice out of hair in public” given that the location was a homeless services center.

The determination in these cases is whether the child is at immediate risk. Fortunately, we do not live in a society where people’s children are reassigned to someone else just because they might do a better job.

You don’t check in to County Mental Health just to have meds adjusted. That isn’t how it works. There are mental health outpatient clinics throughout the county, as well as primary care doctors. There had to be documentation that she was a danger to herself or others.

That is a clear distinction between med adjustment and “I am a clear and present danger”.

Just clarifying.


Did I miss part of the article where it says Elizabeth was locked up for seven days? I see it say several days later they ambushed Richard. Nothing about Elizabeth being locked up, let alone for any amount of time. “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 says nothing about her doing jail time

Don’t underestimate the power of a conniving, wicked woman.

If she has it out for people she doesn’t like, she has the ability and connections to make your life hell.

Same goes for her hubby, ask around RN. We’re not talking about people who follow the rules, we’re talking about people who think they can make their own.

“People are giving Dee Torres WAY too much credit.”

There were a total of two (2) posts when you said this, and neither were giving her any credit. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

per your numbering:

1. Parenting has nothing to do with a child picking up on cursing. They can pick it up anywhere and it sounds the mother was incorrectly disciplining her daughter for doing so- so it isn’t something she would allow.

2. Where does it say that she did this in front of people? It is not like Prado is just one big room. If you look at their layout- there is in fact a room for parents to take their kids. They could have been in there, in one of the bathrooms or in the kids play area… Again you are assuming things. As an RN you should know that everyone’s bodies are different and it might not have been as hard as you make it out to be. I know personally if my dog hits my nose while trying to hug me- it bleeds and bruises.

3. I see where this article’s information was taken from Police reports, court records (I am thinking it would be the Family Court ones) as well as what the mother said. Being Bi-polar and having medication issues could mean anything- from changing prescription (which if you are an RN- they you would know that insurance companies love to cover one for a short time and then stop. Medi-cal is famous for this) and there are a lot of people with mental issues that don’t have their children taken so it isn’t fair to crucify her for that when you don’t know what the issues were.

4. Do you know why they left case management? It doesn’t say. Again just like in the last story- you have no clue why they didn’t want case management. It appears that something in it wasn’t working for them- it is not only about handing them money.

I see where Dee Torres-Hill has lied in court records (saying that she had to treat the kids for lice cause the parents wouldn’t yet the mother was treating her daughter the day CPS was called) and her conflicting “Reporting causes” vs what the police found. These FACTS do show that this lady does in fact have issues with her power and there has to be a reason for making claims that were proven to be wrong one more then 1 occasion.

After reading this swiss cheese article, I attempted to put together the facts as best I could to try and make sense of a story and scenario.

1. A four-five year old typically does not curse. They just don’t. It doesn’t make her a horrible parent with that fact alone, but as an observer, I wonder why the child is cursing. Is the the people she is around?

2. The verbage in the article, along with the part in the story that said the reporting party (whom is assumed is Dee Torres, though this information is supposed to be confidential), witnessed Elizabeth Carroll hit her daughter in the nose, causing it to bleed. By the way, the number one cause of nose bleeding is nose PICKING. Barring nose picking and a bleeding disorder, the only other “common” cause of non injurous nose bleeds I can think of are from extreme temperatures drying out the mucous membranes, potentially causing a bleed. Other than those, most kids I know or have seen have been injured playing sports, falling off a bike/something, getting hit by someone.

3. This family was probably on medi-cal due to income and life circumstance. Once a patient is approved for a medication, then they pay for it. I cannot list the potential myriad of reasons for Elizabeth needing to be hospitalized. It isn’t a hotel; for her to be in an inpatient facility, she had to be seriously ill. Danger to self/others, something.

4. The lice isn’t the reason those kids were removed. That is just one of the many problems the family had from what was posted. As far as Dee Torres lying, are there copies of reports that I am not seeing? I would like to see the paperwork that people keep referring to. If we are talking about the Calcoastnews article, it said that initially, Dee said Elizabeth punched her, right? Then the investigator came to interview mom, kids, witnesses and it was changed from a punch to slap. Not really a lie in my opinion. People don’t accurately recall things every day. The fact is a hand from the mother hit the nose of the child, causing bleeding. It just isn’t safe and effective parenting. Leaving marks and drawing blood are where CPS and law enforcement draw the line.

Look, people can pick apart my objective observations all they want. I don’t care. My opinions are my own. They are based on my experience, what I have seen in practice, and what the laws/rules are. I don’t make rules.

You are right about one thing; we will not have the whole story, nor should we. HIPAA laws are in place to protect a patient’s privacy. My entire point is that we must not vilify those that are out there everyday protecting kids. This kind of inciteful article without the benefit of the full story (it seems Calcoastnews had certain court records and not all of them) could potentially cause fear in those that are supposed to protect kids, and perhaps those people will now not report when they SHOULD for fear of retaliation. That’s it.

Well goes to show Dee is as big a dipshit as most at CPS in my humble opinion.

Now I get it, all 3 children were taken away and adopted out because Dee was worried about the safety of the children. We see how that turned out. Maybe it doesn’t take a village to raise a kid. Less government please.

I totally agree with this comment. As soon as people get any form of power, it goes to their head unless they have some form of restraint. This appears to be the tragic result of one person’s attempt to be a paragon of Do-Gooderism with no regard for real-life consequences.

That woman should be charged and removed from her position.