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Grand Forks woman charged with felony abuse of grandchildren

Jacqueline Peltier1 / 3
Alyssa Demarrias2 / 3
Jenelle Gourd3 / 3

A Grand Forks woman is charged with beating her grandchildren, ages 4 to 9, with a wooden stick and belts, taping one’s eyes shut, then open, holding a boy’s mouth so his screams weren’t heard and taping dirty diapers on their heads and keeping them from eating and drinking.

But her husband said Jacqueline Peltier is innocent and being set up by her own daughter, who lives in the same home with her girlfriend and faces related charges in the case.

Jacqueline Peltier, 50, appeared Thursday in state district court on 13 felony counts of child abuse or neglect, including six Class B felony counts that each carry top sentences of 10 years in prison. She and her daughter, Jenelle Gourd, 28, and Alyssa Demarrias, 22, were arrested Wednesday and made first appearances on the charges Thursday via interactive television from the Grand Forks County jail.

Demarrias and Gourd face seven and four felony counts, respectively, of child abuse or neglect, including two Class B felony counts each that also carry maximum prison sentences of 10 years if they were convicted.

Their charges allege they failed to intervene in the abuse, instead just videotaping Peltier’s abuse, and also of committing child abuse or neglect themselves.

According to an investigator’s affidavit, Gourd videotaped her mother, Peltier, swearing, yelling and beating her grandchildren in their home on two occasions in January and provided the video to investigators.

Details of abuse

Gourd and Demarrias described abuse by Peltier to investigators that involved five or six of the children.

“When Grandma gets mad she would hit us,” one of the older children told forensic interviewers from social services who worked with law enforcement officers on the case.

Peltier especially focused on one boy, who is 4, according to statements from the other children and Gourd and Demarrias: taking him into her bedroom and holding his mouth shut while she hit him with a wooden back-scratcher, also called “the stick,” so “he couldn’t scream,” Gourd said, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Peltier taped the little boy’s eyes shut when he was put to bed to force him to sleep and taped them open during the day so he could not sleep, according to investigators. Peltier also allegedly taped diapers to the children’s bodies using the same strong, “clear” tape, so they could not remove the diapers.

Investigators said bruises and red marks were found on some of the children, who also talked to forensic interviewers with social services about beatings and other abuse from “grandma.”

Children said Peltier would force them to eat spoonfuls of “hot sauce,” and force them to eat “two scoops of hot sauce,” if they ran away, spit it out or cried and that the four-year-old boy “would get it the most.”

One of the older children said Peltier would hit him with “the stick,” and with belts, “on every part of my body.”

Peltier is accused of picking up one girl by her hair, lifting her off the floor.

About two months ago, Peltier stitched up a cut on a five-year-old’s head “with a needle and a thread because she refused to take (the child) to the hospital,” Gourd told investigators about her mother.

Gourd also told investigators Peltier would withhold food and water from her grandchildren, forcing them all to drink out of one water bottle “marked with lines for each” of the children. One little boy got so thirsty, he drank out of the toilet and developed health problems, Gourd told investigators.

A five-year-old told investigators his grandmother “hits me a lot,” and “spanks me on the tummy and butt.”

Peltier admitted to some of the accusations during an interview, mostly that she shouldn’t “holler,” and “cuss” at them so much, investigators said.

Denial by husband

The children have lived with Peltier in her home for periods ranging from one or two months to more than a year. She was the custodian of the children, according to prosecutors.

Russell Peltier attended the court hearing with two other relatives of Jacqueline Peltier.

He said he is her husband, but lives elsewhere, partly because he can’t stand to be in the same home as his stepdaughter Gourd and Demarrias, who he said are setting up his wife.

“She would never do this,” he said of the charges against his wife. “It’s all made up by Jenelle. She’s been saying she was going to get back at her mother one way or another.”

Russell Peltier said Gourd was trying to regain custody of her own two children from her mother, Jacqueline, and “made up” stories of the abuse, including the videotapes.

“All you see on the videotape is Jackie hollering at the kids,” Russell Peltier said.

He said Demarrias is Gourd’s girlfriend.

Peltier was represented by defense attorney, Adam Fleischman. Gourd and Demarrias didn’t yet have attorneys.

Jacqueline Peltier told Judge Jon Jensen she has lived in Grand Forks “since my kids were small, about 30 years.”

Gourd and Demarrias moved in with Peltier in December. Most of the alleged abuse is said to have happened in January and Gourd videotaped alleged abuse twice in January, the latest on Jan. 23.

Social services removed the children from Peltier’s home in February as the investigation proceeded.

The three women were arrested Wednesday and made initial appearances Thursday in state district court in Grand Forks via interactive television from the county jail.

Bond request

Fleischman, said Peltier is on assistance and can’t afford her $50,000 bond and asked it be lowered to $10,000. She has many relatives in Grand Forks and little criminal history and poses no flight risk, Fleischman said.

Jensen refused.

“These are serious charges,” Jensen said. “And also, considering the fact these victims had absolutely no way to defend themselves from you, I think the $50,000 bond is extremely reasonable in this case.”

Gourd and Demarrias are charged with also forcing the children to eat “copious amounts of hot sauce.”

Jensen sent Demarrias’ bond at $30,000 and Gourd’s at $25,000.

The three are scheduled for preliminary hearings April 21, which could become arraignments when they could enter formal pleas.

Judge Jensen ordered them to have no contact with the children, who are in the care of social services.