A Missoula woman and her husband pleaded not guilty Thursday in Missoula County District Court to nine charges apiece related to what investigators described as "horrendous" conditions and abuse of their foster children.
Angela and Malcolm Cobler each face charges including criminal child endangerment, endangering the welfare of children and several counts of assault on a minor. Malcom Cobler is also charged with tampering with evidence. They pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The children were removed from the home last July, according to court documents.
Deputy Missoula County Attorney Lacey Lincoln said Thursday that prosecutors plan to take each Cobler to trial separately, and requested each trial be set for 10 days. Forty witnesses are expected to testify for the prosecution, she said. Lincoln also asked that 200 people be brought in to whittle out a jury at that time.
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Angela Cobler — once the owner of Kids World Childcare in Missoula, which closed in 2012 — and her husband adopted an 11-year-old girl and her older brother in 2013, according to charging documents. Investigators first began looking into reports of child abuse in July 2018, after Child and Family Services received reports of a girl with bruises on her face, back and arms.
A search of the home, according to court documents, found a lock on the outside of the girl's room, a bucket that she was to use as a toilet, and duct tape on the floor dictating where she could and could not go, so as to stay in sight of a surveillance camera. The girl reportedly weighed 57 pounds, roughly half the weight of a typical 11-year-old girl, and she recounted to medical staff that the Coblers would sometimes duct-tape her mouth for punishment, or make her eat vomit when she threw up.
Law enforcement's review of the Coblers' cell phones allegedly found photos and videos of physical abuse, as well as discussions between the foster parents about how to mitigate the visibility of bruises, because people were asking questions about them. Additionally, police said they discussed in text messages restricting food or making it inedible to the children by adding unpalatable amounts of peppers and hot sauce.
Angela Cobler's trial was tentatively set for Sept. 9; Malcolm Cobler's for Aug. 12.