The Case from Hell (and Back)

New allegations and secretly recorded tapes -- the Nogues family's child-abuse debacle might never end

Comprising more than four years of legal brawling, the Nogues case can stake undisputed claim as the most tortured child-abuse battle in Dade history. The affair stems from a 1989 allegation that Kendall physician Andres Nogues sexually abused his teenage stepdaughter, Aimee; following Aimee's accusation, child-protection workers removed the seven minor Nogues children from their home. Though Aimee took back her claims months later, a recantation supported by the findings of state-appointed experts and a lengthy police investigation, the kids remained in the foster care of their eldest sister until this past summer, when Juvenile Court Judge Ralph Person ordered that they be returned home to live with Andres and his wife Lisette, a neurologist.

This past week Person pleaded for an end to the war. "We need to have finality in matters," the judge implored at a February 1 hearing before denying two motions filed by the Nogues parents, who were attempting to clear their name. "We have to stop fighting. There comes a time when it's finished, and I believe we're at that time."

But even as Person spoke, Aimee Nogues was eagerly publicizing her latest -- and most dramatic -- reversal. At a press conference the day before, the nineteen-year-old told reporters that Andres had in fact sexually abused her, and that she had recanted and sabotaged the initial police investigation of her stepfather only because she felt guilty about breaking up the family. Then she dropped the bombshell: She possesses tape-recorded conversations that she insists prove the abuse took place.

Aimee says she recorded the exchanges during the first two weeks in January while Andres drove her on two separate errands. Aside from conversations between a man and a woman, the tapes also contain the voice of an infant, which Aimee claims is her own year-old daughter, a child born out of wedlock and guarded, until recently, as a family secret. Aimee concedes that the tapes, which she says were recorded on a microcassette recorder concealed in her purse, are of poor quality. But she maintains that her stepfather's voice is unmistakable.

The tapes begin with an awkward exchange about past sexual activities, the male voice begging to reinitiate carnal relations. At one point the man complains about the prospect of having sex in the car. "We can't do much in there," the male voice says. "I'm talking about a good-time fuck."

Aimee says that during a second conversation allegedly taped a few days later, her stepfather became more physical. Throughout the time this recording was being made, she says, he was touching her breasts and attempting to grope her elsewhere. "I can't wait to fuck you," the man's voice says at one point. "He also described in a very detailed way what he wanted to do with me sexually," Aimee recalls. "I had to tell him repeatedly to keep his hands off me." The female on the tape is also heard promising the man sexual favors in the future, on the condition that he fix her phone and TV set and financially subsidize a move into an apartment. "I said those things to get him to talk," she claims now.

Andres Nogues, a 35-year-old aspiring pediatrician who married Lisette Nogues fourteen years ago, fathered the three youngest Nogueses and adopted the other six. He categorically denies that he has ever had any sexual contact with his stepdaughter, regardless of what is alleged to have been captured on tape, and raises the possibility that the recordings might have been manipulated. "That's why I want the FBI to analyze these tapes," he says. He adds that neither he nor his wife has listened to the recordings, though Aimee did deliver them to the house a week ago. The couple is urging state prosecutors to bring charges against Aimee if it is determined that she taped Andres without his consent, in violation of Florida law.

"As much as I would like to defend myself, I have been told that I cannot discuss the tapes specifically, because I would forfeit my right to prosecute [Aimee]," Andres says. "If I was guilty, I would not ask to bring charges, because a prosecution will make the tapes public." Lisette Nogues says she believes her husband to be innocent. "If I had the slightest suspicion that this was true," she asserts, "that man would not be in my house. He'd be in jail."

A New Times reporter has listened to both tapes, the first of which lasts about eleven minutes and the second approximately an hour. The recorded voices sound like those of Aimee and Andres Nogues; the female voice repeatedly addresses the male as "Papi," while he calls her "Meme" (Aimee's nickname). Aimee also provided New Times with transcripts of the tapes, whose sound quality is poor.

Aimee, who returned home in June 1992 but had grown alienated from her parents in recent months, says she recorded Andres in the hope of convincing her mother that he did indeed abuse her. "I wanted her to realize what he had done and get him out of the house, away from my brothers and sisters," she says.

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