BUTLER TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Police called it one of the worst cases of child abuse they've seen when they arrested a couple from the Hazleton area. The accused say the information that led to their arrest on child abuse charges was based on a lie.
The two women say they were ending their marriage and claim the child they were taking care of was upset and was getting back at them for breaking up.
Lekesha and Chamille Atkinson claim they were good parents who hit a rough patch in their marriage and say they will fight the child abuse charges they now face.
The couple living in Drums claim they are not the monsters portrayed in last week's arrest report.
Chamille and Lekesha Atkinson say the 11-year-old child in their care who claimed she was abused lied.
"We were actually going through separation, divorce, and we asked her which parent she wants to live with," said Chamille Atchison.
"That is the reason, we think, is why she did what she did is, 'OK, I don't want to be with either one of you guys, so I'm going to go a different route,'" said Lekesha Atchison.
That explanation counters the arrest report filed last week when Butler Township police picked up the married couple and said they were among the most abusive caretakers they've seen.
The girl was removed from their home at the Beech Mountain gated community in Drums in March and is now with foster parents.
Back then, the 11 year old reportedly told officials at her school she didn't want to go home because she'd get "whooped" by the couple.
Butler Township police then talked with the girl.
According to the police report, the couple forced the child to, "take off her clothes and beat her with extension cords, plastic metal wires, belts, and a stick that is known as "the switch."
"We never spanked her. We've never whooped her," said Lekesha Atchison. "We never hit her with a switch or any of those items. We do not discipline our daughter like that."
But police report cites evidence of abuse with scars all over the 11-year-old girl's body.
"According to the police report, bruises were found. We saw her that morning and there were no bruises on her at all. We saw her the night before the day in court thing and there was nothing on her," Chamille Atchison said.
The couple are expected back in court in June when a judge could rule whether there is enough evidence to send one or both of them to trial.
Lekesha Atkinson told the court she works for the U.S. Navy at its Wilkes-Barre recruiting station. The day after our story aired, the US Navy sent us this statement about her status. "The service member has been off of recruiting duty since August of 2017 due to medical limitations. Our recruiters are required to uphold the highest standards. As this case is currently under investigation, it would be inappropriate to discuss further details at this time. We take any allegation of recruiter misconduct seriously and Navy officials are cooperating fully with investigators."
*Updated 5/10 at 5PM to include response from US Navy Public Affairs Officer Lt. Benjamin Anderson.