DALLAS (CBS/AP) Update: A Texas jury convicted Alfred Santiago of injury to a child and sexual assault Tuesday, advancing his grisly trial to the sentencing phase.
A man who allegedly kept three malnourished children locked in the bathroom of a Dallas hotel for approximately 9 months claimed that the famished adolescents refused to eat the food he made for them.
Alfred Santiago, 38, took the stand in his own defense Monday, telling jurors that he served the children - an 11-year-old girl and two boys ages 5 and 10 - breakfast and lunch every day.
But when police found the children in July 2009, the three youngsters appeared emaciated and soiled. A doctor who treated the children described them as "having sunken cheeks and flaky skin" and said they reeked of a "repugnant odor."
"I know I fed them," said Santiago. "Whether they ate or not, I couldn't force them."
Santiago is also accused of sexually abusing the young girl. The girl, now 12-years-old, told jurors that Santiago forced her to put her brother's excrement inside her mouth. She sat in the courtroom, wearing glasses with her hair in pigtails, and told jurors that Santiago sexually assaulted her and beat her brothers.
"I feel sick," she said. "He's done so many bad things - worse than anyone can imagine. He's horrible."
Santiago told jurors he never physically or sexually assaulted any of the children.
Pictures hung in the courtroom showed the horrid conditions that the children had to endure. The photos showed the childred with their ribs and spines protruding through their skin. Another photo was taken of the stopped-up toilet in the bathroom where the children allegedly stayed.
Santiago said he was "careless" in not alerting authorities of their living conditions. He also claimed that Abneris Santiago, the children's mother, told him to lock the three children in the bathroom.
Abneris' trial is set to begin once Alfred's trial concludes. The two have a daughter together who was 1-year-old when they were arrested. She was in good health and unharmed.
Santiago faces charges of injury to a child and repeated sexual abuse in relation to the young girl, who was 11 at the time. He could serve life in prison if convicted. Charges involving harm to the two boys, who were 5 and 10 when rescued, are pending.