June 23, 2007
Girlfriend blames others in Portage horrors, says group is 'cult'
The Associated Press
MADISON - A member of a band of drifters accused of killing one of their own and torturing an 11-year-old boy says her boyfriend controlled the group, which he considered a "cult."
"I am not a monster," Candace Clark told reporters from the Portage Daily Register and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who interviewed her at Columbia County Jail during visiting time Friday night.
She denied involvement in the murder. As for the other charges she and three others face, she said, "No one's innocent in this."
She said that included the 11-year-old boy whose extensive injuries are described in the criminal complaint.
"Everybody's making him out to be perfect. He's not," she said.
Clark earlier told the Orlando Sentinel from jail that her boyfriend Michael Sisk was controlling and considered the group to be a cult. She gave police a false name when they came to the door of the house the group was renting in Portage because she was afraid of him and thought she might be killed next.
"You don't call the police when you and your kids were threatened," Clark, 23, said.
Police went to the house June 14, acting on a tip from Florida detectives searching for Clark's 2-year-old daughter, whom they believed Clark had abducted from her Florida foster parents.
They found Clark, her daughter and her two other children, a 20-year-old woman named Michaela Clerc and 15-year-old Felicia Garlin. They all gave police false names, according to a criminal complaint.
Police also found Garlin's 11-year-old brother, bloody and covered with burns, locked in a closet, and the body of her mother, 36-year-old Tammie Garlin, buried behind the house.
Investigators took the women into custody and captured Sisk, 25, later at a Milwaukee bus terminal. They believe all of them were part of a band of identity thieves who crisscrossed the U.S., surviving through financial fraud schemes.
All four _ Clark, Clerc, Felicia Garlin and Sisk _ are charged with child abuse and being a party to murder.
Clark refused to tell the Orlando Sentinel 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 said the kidnapping accusations are 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.
The foster mother, Cindy Martell, told the Daily Register Clerc is her daughter. Clerc met Tammie Garlin in an online lesbian chatroom and had been seeing her since she was 13 and Tammie Garlin was 29.
"I told (Clerc), I know Tammie's older than you are, but if I meet her and I think she's OK, I'll agree with that relationship," Martell told the newspaper.
In 2000, Garlin and her children moved to the Orlando, Fla., area to live with Clerc, Martell said. But in April 2006 the romance ended after Clerc suspected Tammie Garlin was seeing another woman. They went on living together, though.
Clark, posing as a lesbian, met Clerc online and Clerc fell in love with her, even though Clark stole Clerc's identity and took money from her bank account, police said.
The group traveled to Colorado, Maine and Wisconsin, living from hotel to hotel before they rented the house in Portage.
Tammie Garlin's relatives said they last heard from her in late 2006, when she called asking for $500.
"She needed money because she was in trouble," said Peggy Brown, the wife of Tammie Garlin's uncle, Troy Brown. "I asked, 'What kind of trouble are you in?' She said, 'I can't tell you that.' I said, 'Where are you at?' And she said 'I can't tell you that.'"
Tammie Garlin's aunt, Judy Beckham, said Garlin was "not all there" after her mother died in 1992. She suffered almost daily seizures and possibly a stroke, she said, although investigators found no evidence of a stroke or any other disease during a preliminary autopsy.
Her family was baffled Garlin would remain with Clerc and travel with her, Sisk and Clark.