BISBEE — A married couple who adopted four children with troubled pasts were sent to prison on Friday after a judge decided the years of abuse they leveled on the youngsters far outweighed any mitigating circumstances presented by their attorneys and people who spoke on the couple’s behalf.
The sentencing hearing of Brian and Monica Campbell in front of Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson was an emotion-packed proceeding with harrowing details of the mistreatment of the four children the Campbells adopted years ago.
The case has been winding its way through Superior Court since March 2019, laced with continuances and contentiousness, as well as accusations at times by defense attorneys that the four young victims lied about what happened to them.
While the charges the Campbells pleaded to stem from abuse that occurred between 2016 and 2018, Assistant Cochise County Attorney Michael Powell said Friday that the mistreatment probably started in 2012.
“As far as nine years ago, there were reports of abuse coming out of that house,” Powell said.
Lynne Cadigan, the attorney representing the four victims, has said repeatedly that the children asked for help, but because Monica Campbell worked as a dispatch supervisor for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and Brian Campbell worked for the Department of Child Services, no one listened.
On Friday morning, Dickerson, who said he was going to take a “relatively simple approach to this case,” sentenced the Campbells to three years in prison after each pleaded guilty to four counts of domestic violence/child abuse. Probation was an option.
“Probation is not appropriate and the three-year sentence is,” Dickerson said. “These offenses are very serious.”
Powell explained that the charges the Campbells pleaded to carry a maximum of 3.75 years, but prosecutors and the victims agreed to three years. Powell said the victims did not want to drag out the case any longer and did not want to be subjected to recounting the details of their abuse at a trial.
The case went into negotiations and the victims were part of the process, Powell said.
“The goal of any prosecution is to achieve justice. In this case, for these victims, justice was achieved with three years in prison,” Powell said. “These victims wanted a resolution that would bring the criminal case to an end without them having to testify a second time.
“While certainly the actions of the defendants justified a harsher sentence than three years imprisonment, that would not have been a just result to seek as part of a plea agreement when the victims made clear that they weren’t seeking that additional time and their priority was simply seeing the defendants be held accountable with felony convictions and some prison time. The victims actively participated in plea negotiations. This was the right result for this case.”
The Campbell’s biological daughter, Jade Campbell, was charged with one count of domestic violence in the case, but Powell said Friday he would have the charges dismissed.
Jade Campbell began shaking and crying uncontrollably when her mother and father were led from the courtroom. Her sobbing could be heard from the lobby area of the courthouse’s second floor. Monica Campbell was led away in handcuffs; Brian Campbell, wearing a neck brace and walking with a hiking stick, was not handcuffed.
Defense attorney Michael Storie had asked Dickerson if his clients could surrender to the jail “in a few days,” saying they were not flight risks, but the judge denied the request.
Prior to making the request, a furious Storie complained details that emerged in Friday’s hearing when one of the victims testified in person were shocking and were allegations he had never heard of. In past hearings, it was learned the Campbells had used a taser on the children, had struck them with a wood plank regularly, withheld food from them for up to three days, and had forced them to stand naked in the house for hours and sleep naked for minor infractions.
Testimony from two of the four victims was heard Friday — one in person, the other in a detailed, two-page statement. Cadigan read the letter sent by one of the victims who said she could not handle sitting in the courtroom with her abusers.
The girl described being abused from the age of 7 and living in a “prison” with her adopted siblings in which each child was assigned a number, rather than being called by their names. The victim described a life of “abuse, torture, humiliation and cruelty.”
Cadigan, in a prior hearing, stated that the victims told her the Campbells also had forced the youngsters to dig their own graves. The girl, in her statement, wrote, “They stole our childhoods and have forever scarred us.”
The victim who testified in person, a male, described years of humiliation and mistreatment at the hands of the Campbells. He said he was forced to sleep near a litter box.
“In an actual home, have you ever heard of getting tased and beaten?” the young man asked Dickerson. “All I have to say is, God is watching.”
The Campbells apologized to their victims and the court.
After the sentencing hearing, Cadigan and Powell stood with three of the four victims — some of whom were smiling — and their supporters.
“Justice was done, Judge Dickerson did the right thing,” Cadigan said. “The victims are very happy and they feel safe.”