One of four housemates accused of helping kill a woman and torture the woman's 11-year-old son said the group took its cues from the only man implicated in the case.
"I am not a monster," Candace Clark, 23, told reporters from the Portage Daily Register and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who interviewed her at Columbia County Jail during visiting time Friday night.
She described her boyfriend, Michael Sisk, 25, as the ringleader of the house they rented in Portage, some 40 miles north of Madison.
Clark denied involvement in the killing of 36-year-old Tammie Garlin, whose body police found buried in the yard.
As for the other charges she and three others face, Clark said, "No one's innocent in this."
All four — Clark, Sisk, Michaela Clerc, 20, and Felicia Garlin, 15 — are charged with first-degree murder, child abuse, mutilation, hiding a corpse, false imprisonment, aggravated battery, three other felonies and a misdemeanor. The three adults are also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a child.
Earlier Friday, the secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families called it "unconscionable" that state child welfare workers took four months to alert police that Clark had taken her 2-year-old daughter from a foster home in Florida. The Florida Department of Children & Families is investigating and hopes to have answers next week.
Acting on a tip from Florida detectives, Wisconsin police visited the Portage house on June 14.
They found Clark and her three children, including the 2-year-old, as well as Clerc and Felicia Garlin, Tammie Garlin's daughter. They all gave police false names, according to a criminal complaint.
Police found Tammie Garlin's 11-year-old son, bloody and covered with burns, locked in a closet, and Garlin's body buried in the yard. A preliminary autopsy indicated she had been strangled.
May have been identity thieves
Investigators took the women into custody and captured Sisk later at a Milwaukee bus terminal. Authorities believe all of them were part of a band of identity thieves who crisscrossed the U.S., surviving through financial fraud schemes.
The children were placed in the state's care.
Clark earlier told the Orlando Sentinel from jail that her boyfriend Sisk was controlling and considered the group to be a cult. She said she lied to police about her name because she was afraid Sisk might kill her.
"You don't call the police when you and your kids were threatened," Clark said.
Clark refused to tell the newspaper who killed Tammie Garlin, saying only that one person did it. She said she led police to the body.
"That was a burden that I had on my chest that I had to get off," Clark said.
Others in the group took turns beating and torturing the boy, Clark said, calling him unruly. He would bite, kick and punch, and even Tammie Garlin said he had to be disciplined.
Clark called the kidnapping accusations overblown.
She said the foster parents dropped the 2-year-old off at her home in Sanford, Fla., last July and told her they couldn't afford her any longer. She tried calling a caseworker, but never heard from the woman.
Sisk and Clark are both wanted in Colorado — Sisk for walking away from jail while out on work release and Clark for failing to show up in court for allegedly writing bad checks and stealing a car, prosecutors say.