Teen Reveals Years of Starvation, Abuse, and Imprisonment During Government Hearing

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Malayia Knapp broke down in tears Monday as she opened up to strangers during a government oversight hearing about the adoptive woman who she said once choked her so severely she thought she would die.

"When she was choking me that day, I told her, 'You are going to kill me if you don't stop!' I was so scared," Malayia Knapp told Democratic lawmakers, who convened the oversight hearing as they investigate whether the Department of Human Services is properly protecting children like Malayia.

Malayia testified that her adoptive mother, Mindy Knapp, beat, starved, and imprisoned her in the basement and even claimed to know what Malayis was thinking, which would then incite another beating for improper thoughts.

Malayia's two younger siblings also lived in the Urbandale home. She told legislators about one particularly horrifying night after her sister had tried to run away from home.

"My sister was hung from her bed overnight...her feet at one end...her hands at the other. That was hard for me to watch as the older sister," Malayia said. "If we tried tried to help her, we would get beaten, too."

Lynn Hoskins sat by her granddaughter's side. She told of her frustrations that DHS and the court system denied her attempts to adopt the children.

"I don't think I could love them any more if I had given birth to them," Hoskins said. "They mean that much to me."

Malayia said she eventually escaped her abuse by running away and calling authorities. Her two younger siblings remain with Mindy Knapp, as far as she knows.

Knapp pleaded guilty to simple assault.

Since the governor returned to office, DHS is down about 800 workers or about 1/6th of its staff in 2011. Senator McCoy asked whether those cuts impact DHS' abilities to investigate abuse claims.

When asked if Governor Branstad was concerned about this, his staff responded, "Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds express their deepest sympathies to children and their families who have been harmed by child abuse. Children in the foster care system need to be protected and taken care of at all times. Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds are willing to have conversations with anyone who is serious about ensuring we make improvements to a large and complex Department of Human Services."