12-year-old brutally abused by stepmother in Queens

Sheetal Ranot, an Ozone Park, Queens woman charged with starving and beating her pre-teen stepdaughter faces 25 years in prison after she was convicted Friday of assault and child endangerment.

Sheetal Ranot, 35, was found guilty of slashing the girl, then 12, with a shattered metal broom handle that cut the girl’s wrist to the bone – and coldly leaving her in a pool of blood, authorities said. Ranot and her husband Rajesh tortured the child for nearly two years in their Ozone Park house of horrors, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The duo have allegedly locked the girl in her bedroom without food or water for extended periods, with her weight dropping to 58 pounds, officials said. Rajesh Ranot, the victim’s biological father was also charged with second- and third-degree assault, first-degree unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child. The husband and wife’s case was severed at the start of Ranot’s trial. Rajesh Ranot will be tried at a later date.

“A jury weighed the evidence, which included the once-undernourished victim’s testimony in court, and found the defendant guilty of abusing the girl for more than a year and half. The pre-teen was locked in her bedroom by her step-mother without food or even water for extended periods of time,” District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement.

“The victim was struck with a metal broom handle and a wooden rolling pin until she was bloody and still carries these scars and others on her body to this day. No child deserves to be treated in this manner,” Brown said.

The girl, identified in published reports as Maya Ranot, weighed a skeletal 58 pounds because of the escalating violence. She, however, survived to tell the tale of her suffering and torture at the hands of her parents in their Ozone Park home.

After a day of deliberations, a jury convicted Ranot of first-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Buchter, who presided over the three-week-long trial, set sentencing for September 8.

On May 6, 2014, when medical personnel arrived at the family residence after Sheetal Ranot hit Maya with a broken metal broom handle, they found Maya lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen with the tendons to her left wrist cut to the bone.

At that time, Maya was transported to Elmhurst Hospital where she underwent surgery for her wrist and received stitches to her knee. Doctors observed several bruises, marks and scars in various stages of healing throughout Maya’s body during that hospital stay.

“Thank God! It’s about time they locked him up. Everyone is afraid of him . . . How could he do this to his own daughter?” the Daily News quoted one of Rajesh Ranot’s former in-laws who was not identified by his name as asking.

Maya was beaten with everything from a rolling pin to a baseball bat to a broken metal broom handle — but never said a word because she feared her four step-siblings would be sent to foster care, officials were quoted as saying. “Fortunately, she found the courage to speak up,” Brown said. “It is not too hard to imagine that this case would have ended in the child’s death.”

A September 2014 New York Times report said Maya’s ordeal started in 2011, when a custody dispute placed her with her father. Relatives and a friend of her mother, Ramona Roy, said Ranot fabricated claims that Roy abused Maya. Their contention could not be verified by the newspaper because family court records are not public.

At that time the Times report said quoting neighbors that they noticed that Maya’s clothes were often dirty and that she was always doing chores and caring for her four stepsiblings,  who looked healthier and cleaner. “I was told this is normal — stepmothers don’t like stepkids in India,” neighbor Bematie Singh from Guyana told the newspaper.  “Maya was like the maid.”

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