Rob Johnson, 44, and his wife, Marie Johnson, 43, of Port St. Lucie, were arrested Tuesday and charged with felony sexual assault counts.
The Port St. Lucie Police Department said the 13-year-old girl was sent to live with the Johnsons after her mother died, and soon after her arrival was told she could only be part of their family by having sex with them.
She was told to call Rob “master,” investigators said in an arrest affidavit, and Marie Johnson pushed her against a wall and held her by her throat until the girl agreed to the sexual demands.
The woman told police the couple had sex with her twice a week until she turned 18.
The girl, who is not identified in police filings, was beaten when she didn’t follow the couple’s directions or complete her chores, according to police. The girl said the abuse went on repeatedly for more than five years.
All the while, Rob Johnson held Sunday school classes for his family at their home, invoking Old Testament passages to justify the actions, the arrest affidavit said.
Police said the girl, now 21, was homeschooled, not allowed to use the phone and forced to rehearse what to say to doctors if she was asked about sexual activity.
The girl eventually was able to leave the home after her grandmother purchased a plane ticket to bring her to Ohio, the police said.
"This is one of the most heinous crimes we’ve seen sexually in a long time,” Detective Daniel Herrington said.
"This was a 13-year-old girl who had just lost her mother ... who is looking for love and affection from someone who has no one in her life. You use that and manipulate that and use the Bible and religion out of context to manipulate a 13-year-old girl who has no other options."
The Johnsons were freed on bail later Tuesday, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said, after each posted $60,000 bond. No attorney was listed for them. A call to their home Wednesday went unanswered.
Detective Herrington said he was proud of how intrepid the girl was in coming forward to police.
"It’s something that’s very shameful and private also, to anyone, even though she is a victim. We want to say how brave our victim is for not only beginning this process but to stay with the process."
Port St. Lucie is on Florida’s Atlantic coast, about 115 miles north of Miami.
- Additional reporting by AP