Two boys, 12 and 13, showed police their scarred bodies.
They said that for at least two years, their mother beat them with a knotted electric cord, struck them with a brush and a textbook, choked one, and even threw boiling water on the back of one, shouting, "How do you like me now?"
Said the 12-year-old: "In that house, it feels like death.
Annie Jean Richardson, 39, is charged with three counts of aggravated battery on a child, one for aggravated abuse, and one for kidnapping.
Francisco Alicea, the father of the two boys and their 9-year-old sister, was in court. Alicea, 38, said that he was in filing documents to obtain custody of the three, who are now with one of his relatives.
Alicea said that when his children finally told him of the alleged abuses, "I was in tears. I started crying."
The two brothers told an investigator at Home Safe - a center that helps evaluate abused children - that they did not want to go home because their mother repeatedly attacked them.
The 12-year-old said his mother lost her spare key about four months ago and accused the boys of losing it. He said he was searching for the key in his mother's room when she ordered the 13-year-old to boil a pot of water, telling him to make sure it came to a boil or she'd throw it on him.
Richardson then threw the water on the 12-year-old's back, shouting, "Ha ha, how you like me now? Ha Ha."
The boys said the mother did not seek medical attention.
A year earlier, on Sept. 25, 2007, the 12-year-old said, he would not stand still while his mother beat him with a knotted electric extension cord into which she had tied knots.
As punishment, he said, Richardson repeatedly beat him on his upper left shoulder with a wooden brush until it broke. He showed police a large scar knot on his shoulder.
Police said there's no evidence the 9-year-old girl was ever criminally harmed.
Jail and court records show Richardson was arrested in October 1998 for aggravated battery with a hammer and retail theft and was later convicted and placed on probation.