MOSS BLUFF, LA (KPLC) - A mother facing 13 counts of child cruelty said she is innocent.
Verna Kennerson, 56, Moss Bluff, said her two young daughters are making up the abuse allegations. Kennerson said she adopted the girls a few years ago and claims they have been trouble ever since.
Kennerson made the comments as she gave KPLC an exclusive tour of the inside of her home.
Calcasieu Parish investigators said Kennerson refused to feed the girls, forcing them to look for food in neighborhood trash cans. They also said she physically abused the girls with belts, extension cords and sticks. They said she even struck one of the girls so hard she chipped the girl's tooth. And they say she even threatened to hang one of the girls.
Authorities said Kennerson also forced the girls to wear signs on the back of their shirts while attending school. The signs identified the girls as thieves and liars.
Kennerson told 7 News on Thursday that she considers herself a strict disciplinarian but never abused the girls, though she does admits to making them wear the signs to school. Kennerson said the girls have been in trouble at school numerous times.
"I made them wear the signs and I made them write the signs," said Kennerson. "I can't remember word-for-word but I did make them wear it to go to school to discourage them and shame them from stealing."
As for the allegations that she starved them or forced them to sleep in a shed outside, Kennerson said those claims are not true, pointing to the full refrigerator of food in her kitchen.
"They did not sleep in a portable building," she said. "Why would I make them sleep in a portable building?"
Kennerson, who is handicapped, admits to slapping the girls, but she said that is as far as the abuse went.
Following an investigation, deputies arrested Kennerson on Wednesday (the day before this interview), charging her with the thirteen counts of child cruelty. They also arrested her 77-year-old mother, Mary Kennerson, charging her with one count of child cruelty for not coming forward to report the abuse.
The pair bonded out a short time later. They are currently awaiting their court dates.
Despite the notoriety, Kennerson said she does not care what others think about her.
"I'm not worried about what people say about me," she said. "People can say whatever they want to say about me because I know it's a lie."
The children are in the state's custody.