TEMPLE CITY, CALIFORNIA – UNITED STATES.
Susan Wiley is more famously known as “Genie.” She suffered some of the worst child abuse recorded in the history of the United States. Held captive in a bedroom, her cruel father deprived her of all social stimulation, before she was thrust into the public spotlight, and under the gaze of researchers and academics.
Lead up to Crime
Susan’s father, Clark Wiley, came from a dysfunctional background. He was teased relentlessly while growing up because he was given the same birth name as his mother, Pearl Wiley. Raised by a mother who managed a bordello, Clark discovered her with clients. His father was killed when struck by lightning.
Clark worked as an aircraft mechanic, and married Dorothy “Irene” Oglesby in 1944. He was 20 years older than his wife and he never wanted children. Clark suffered mental instability, while Irene was partially blind. Their marriage was littered with domestic violence, which would see Irene hospitalised. They would have four children, but not all would survive.
Their first child, Dorothy Irene Wiley, was born on June 2, 1948, and named after her mother. When Dorothy was around 10-weeks old, Clark wrapped the crying infant in a blanket and placed her in a dresser drawer in the garage, resulting in her death.
Their second child, Robert Clark Wiley, was born a year later on September 15, 1949. He died two days later, it was reported he choked on his own mucus. It has been suspected that Clark caused his son’s death.
John Gray Wiley, their third child, was born on March 11, 1952. At four years of age he went to live with his grandmother, Pearl Martin, after mother Irene was institutionalised. At age six, Pearl took John out for an ice cream. In a hit-and-run, she was struck by a pick-up truck and killed. John returned to live with his parents. Clark blamed his son for his mother’s death.
The family moved into Pearl’s small two-bedroom house at 6722 North Golden West Avenue, Temple City, Los Angeles, California. (The property is located two houses from the town line — situated just inside Temple City — but is often listed with an Arcadia postal address.) Clark’s mother’s bedroom remained untouched, left as a shrine.
Susan M., was the fourth of the Wiley children, was born on April 18, 1957.
In late 1958, when Susan was 20 months old, a doctor told her father the girl was mildly retarded and should be protected from the world. Clark Wiley took this to the extreme, locking her in the remaining bedroom of the house. For years Clark slept in an armchair in the living room, with a gun on his lap, as Irene slept at the dining table, and John slept on the floor. Clark rarely allowed the family to leave and forced them to live in the darkened house, with the blinds constantly drawn.
Susan spent her time strapped to a potty chair, often overnight. She was housed in a cot, caged in with chicken wire. She was restrained in a homemade straightjacket sown by Irene, and slept tied up in a tattered sleeping bag. When Susan made a noise she was beaten, barked or growled at by her father. Her mother, Irene, and brother, John, also suffered punishments at the hands of Clark; he often treated them violently, or threatened them with his gun collection. No one was allowed to visit or talk to Susan, who remained trapped in a dingy room, with the windows covered in foil.
Fed on a diet of pablum (a processed cereal for infants’ that contains vitamin D) and soft foods, Susan never learned to chew solids. She suffered from malnutrition and her body failed to grow at an average rate.
In his armchair, Clark rested with a gun across his lap, leaving Irene and John in a constant state of fear. John attended school, keeping the family secret, avoiding gym classes because of his bruised and swollen genitalia, a result of being regularly beaten by his father with a wooden plank. Clark beat Susan with the same plank.
Susan learned only limited words, such as “stop it” and “no more,” basic phrases to protest her father’s atrocities.
Neighbours thought the Wiley family were “strange people who kept to themselves.” Others claimed they saw the girl sitting on the porch, while most claimed to know nothing of Susan’s existence.
John ran away at 18 years of age to escape his father. Irene soon did the same and fled to her mother’s house with Susan. Susan had been held captive for 12 years.
Irene left her mother’s house in Monterey Park on November 4, 1970, intending to visit the Temple City welfare office to seek blind assistance payments. However, she accidently attended the County Department of Public Social Services, where a welfare worker noticed something wasn’t right with Susan. She moved with a “bunny walk,” her legs deformed from being strapped to the potty. She looked around eight years old, she could not speak, her hands extended claw-like, and she still wore diapers.
Irene Wiley applied for welfare and a worker attended her home. The worker enquired about Susan’s age and discovered the girl was 13-years-old. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was contacted.
By David Phoebe