Category Archives: Physical Abuse

One of the 5 forms of Child Abuse

FL Toddler Outside All Night In Hurricane Irma

.jpg photo of FL town where toddler was left out in Hurricane Irma
A 19-month-old Toddler was left outside all night as Irma hit town.

Toddler left outside overnight during Irma
looked ‘purple’

JASPER, FL  –  A Florida father is accused of leaving his toddler outside as Tropical Storm Irma slammed into the Jasper neighborhood where he lives, according to WCTV.

Police arrested 36-year-old Angelo Mitchell on Monday;  he has been charged with felony child abuse.

The 19-month-old’s mother called police around 11:30 p.m. Sunday night to report the girl missing.  She told police Mitchell had picked up their daughter from her, then returned to her house a couple of hours later without the child.

Mitchell told officers that he had never picked up the girl, but that she was safe and was probably with a family friend, according to a police report.  According to WCTV, investigators noted during the interview that Mitchell smelled of alcohol.

Police tried to track the girl using dogs, but weren’t able to locate her scent in the storm.

Shortly before noon on Monday, someone in the neighborhood found the girl in the yard of a home roughly 450 yards from her house.  The girl’s skin appeared purple, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff, and authorities believe she was exposed to the storm’s pounding rain and fierce gusts the entire night.

She also had numerous scratches and bug bites on her skin, witnesses told WCTV.  The girl was flown to a hospital in Gainesville for treatment.  She was reportedly released in good health Tuesday.

Mitchell is a convicted felon who spent a year in prison after he was convicted of battery in a domestic violence case, according to The Miami Herald.  Records show he’s had three restraining orders issued against him.

Mitchell was arrested and taken to the Hamilton County Jail.


.jpg photo of Director of Child Advocacy Center
Denise Valdez, director of Kids Talk

Child Abuse death cases on the rise in Indiana

A 1-year-old child died because of acute alcohol intoxication and extensive burn wounds.  The child had burns over 11.5 percent of the body, and a blood alcohol level of 0.145 percent.  The child also suffered from malnutrition.  It was determined the child was burned about one month before death.

A 1-year-old child died as a result of a ruptured stomach with chemical peritonitis, fracture of the cervical spine and extensive scalp hemorrhages.  The mother admitted whipping the child with a belt four to five times per day for the past month because of behavioral issues.

A 22-day-old child died from positional asphyxia with a contributing factor of acute mixed drug intoxication.  The child’s mother fell asleep in a reclining position on a couch while breast-feeding the child.  When the mother awoke, the child was unresponsive with her face between the mother’s chest and arm.

ANDERSON, IN  –  These clinical descriptions represent the life stories of three Indiana children who died of abuse or neglect in 2015.

And 74 other similar accounts are contained in the Indiana Department of Child Services Annual Report of Child Fatalities for Indiana fiscal year 2015, released this month.

The 77 deaths covered in the report are abuse and neglect cases that child service officials could “substantiate,” out of 258 fatalities the department reviewed.

About half the deaths were traumatic — beatings and gunshot wounds.  Head trauma was the main cause of death in abuse cases.

One-third of the children died as a result of neglect.  Unsafe sleep practices leading to asphyxia were the primary cause of death in this category, and the misuse of drugs and alcohol were frequent contributing factors, according to the report.

What’s more concerning: The number of substantiated child abuse/neglect fatalities in Indiana keeps rising, from 34 in 2012, to 49 in 2013, to 66 in 2014, to 77 in 2015.

Of the total fatalities in 2015, 32, or 42 percent, were attributed to abuse.  Forty-five (58 percent) were attributed to neglect.

In other key findings:

  • In the case of abuse, 85 percent of victims were less than 3 years old.
  • In the case of neglect, 73 percent were less than 3 years old.

“This finding demonstrates a consistent trend (nationally and in Indiana) that young children are at the highest risk of abuse and neglect,” according to the report’s executive summary.

Another disturbing trend revealed in the fatality report: Abuse and neglect is often inflicted by a child’s biological parents.

  • 84 percent of neglect fatalities and 68 percent of abuse fatalities were caused by a biological parent.
  • 10 percent of neglect fatalities and 26 percent of abuse fatalities were caused by a parent’s intimate partner or another relative.

The report also showed the most common stress factors associated with child deaths were insufficient income and unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence.

“Each one of these deaths was 100 percent preventable,” said Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, in a statement.

“Our infants and toddlers are the most vulnerable of all our children,” Bonaventura added.  “Younger children demand active supervision, attention, care and patience — which may be difficult to give if someone has low or poor parenting skills, or is dealing with multiple stress factors, including substance abuse.”

Data complied by the Indiana Youth Institute provides context for Madison County’s struggle with neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse, especially if you contrast the community with affluent neighbor Hamilton County.

Hamilton County’s population in 2015 was about 309,700, and Madison County’s was about 129,300.5

Though Hamilton County’s population was 2.4 times larger than Madison’s, far fewer cases of neglect were reported there: 259 compared to 729 in Madison County. Reports of physical abuse were also lower, 20 in Hamilton County versus 68 in Madison County.

The recently released Department of Child Services report notes that of the 77 deaths in Madison County, DCS officials had prior contact with only four of the children.

Behind these numbers are families and children struggling to cope with poverty, mental illness and rampant drug and alcohol abuse, Madison County child advocates say.

“A lot of people gloss over violence in the home,” said Denise Valdez, director of Kids Talk.  “We need to look at why there’s violence in the home.  There are so many factors.”

Kids Talk interviews victims of child abuse and neglect and provides information to local law enforcement.

Valdez believes education is a key element in changing the behavior of abusive or neglectful parents.

Valdez also believes humans are born with an innate sense of right and wrong.  While many people might not be prepared for the job of parenting, the episodes documented in the fatality report unmask a disturbing pathology.

“I think people who do that have some deep psychological issues that need to be addressed,” she said.

Efforts are afoot in Madison County to advocate for victimized children, but there are so many of them and too few resources.

“We’re just overwhelmed with the number of cases,” said Annette Craycraft, executive director of East Central Indiana CASA.

Currently 400 people are on the agency’s waiting list for services.

CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates.  Its volunteers advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children in the welfare system.  Working with children who have been abused, the volunteers are often the first to see trends and behaviors that affect the well-being of kids.

Like Valdez, Craycraft believes education can help change behavior. After reading this year’s fatality report, she said, “The thing that really stood out is that a lot of these deaths could have been prevented.”

Craycraft believes Madison County’s medical community does a good job of providing information to new parents about safe sleep practices, but it’s hard to know what happens when couples arrive home.

For children who are older, Craycraft believes community mentors and organized programs such as those at the new Anderson Township Trustee Girls and Boys Club can help break cycles of violence.

But until whole communities become truly aware of the needs and come together, the fatalities will mount, and there will be more sordid stories like these three.

• In the case of the 1-year-old burn victim, no medical treatment was sought.

The mother’s boyfriend initially told investigators the child was burned accidentally when water he was heating for a sibling’s formula fell from the stove on the child.  Later, the boyfriend told investigators the child was accidentally burned in bath water that was too hot.

Both caregivers said the mother was not home when the injuries occurred.  The child’s mother was charged with criminal neglect of a dependent and false informing.  The mother’s boyfriend was charged with criminal neglect of a dependent, battery and false informing.  Both criminal cases are pending.

  • In the case of the 1-year-old who was whipped, both the mother and father and were charged with murder, neglect of a dependent and battery.  Both are awaiting trial.  The Department of Child Services found that the death was caused by physical abuse, medical neglect, malnutrition and environmental conditions attributed to both parents.
  • The 22-day-old’s mother tested positive for benzodiazepines and Tramadol at the time of death, and an autopsy found the child had both pseudoephedrine and nortramadol in her system.  The child’s pediatrician was aware the mother was breastfeeding, but was not aware she was taking Tramadol.  No criminal charges were filed in the case.

Father, Mother Charged With Felony Child Abuse

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic
Indifference will never stop Child Abuse

Dirty, injured boy asks neighbor for food;
parents charged with Child Abuse

WASHINGTON, DC  –  The parents of a 10-year-old boy face felony charges after their son knocked on a neighbor’s door to ask for food in Prince William County.

The boy was injured and was wearing dirty clothes, police said.

The neighbor, who lives on Aden Road in Nokesville, called police Tuesday afternoon.  Officers determined that the boy had left his home more than a mile away earlier in the day, Prince William County Police Officer Nathan Probus said.

The parents are accused of forcing their son to kneel on sharp objects for long periods of time and burning his hands on a hot stove as a way to punish him.

The boy was taken to a hospital, and was in the custody of Child Protective Services.

Walter Enrique Flores-Chiquillo, 35, and Barbara Margarita Ramirez Del Cid, 28, both of Nokesville, were arrested Wednesday on felony child abuse charges.  Both were being held without bond.

Additional charges were expected to be filed in the case, police said.

California 5 Year Old In Coma

.jpg photo of couple arrested for torture
Benjamin Matthew Whitten, the boy’s biological father and Jeryn Christine Johnson

Murrieta Couple Charged With Torture,
Child Abuse

Murrieta, CA  –  A Murrieta couple have been charged with child abuse and torture after a 5-year-old boy was hospitalized with severe injuries and is now comatose, authorities announced Thursday.

Benjamin Matthew Whitten, the boy’s biological father and a U.S. Navy sailor, and his live-in girlfriend Jeryn Christine Johnson appeared for arraignment in Murrieta on Thursday afternoon, but the hearing was postponed, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

The couple were arrested Tuesday, about 10 hours after Johnson called 911 to report the child being in medical distress, police said Wednesday.

Police officers found the unidentified boy frail and extremely malnourished, a Murrieta Police Department lieutenant said.  He had “severe injuries requiring immediate medical” care, the DA’s office said.

A neighbor said she saw paramedics doing chest compressions on the child.

The boy was taken by ambulance to an area hospital and then airlifted to another hospital in San Diego County.  He remains in grave condition Thursday, according to the DA’s office.

Dozens came out for a vigil outside the family’s home early Wednesday’s evening.  Neighbors said they didn’t see the family outside very often, though the father was sometimes heard yelling at the boy.

Whitten, 33, and Johnson, 25, were charged Thursday with one count of torture, and one count of child abuse with an allegation of causing the child to become comatose.

At Thursday afternoon’s appearance, their arraignment was posted until Aug. 24 and the judge kept their bail at $1 million each.  A public defender was appointed for Whitten and a defense attorney will be appointed to represent Johnson because the public defender’s office said it cannot represent two defendants in the same case, a DA’s spokesman said.

After getting a warrant, investigators searched the couple’s home in the 24000 block of Verdun Lane, where police said they found “extremely unsanitary” conditions.  Eleven dogs, four cats and two fish were taken from the home.

Administration code enforcement violations have occurred at the home, but no emergency calls were made after the family moved there in April 2016, police said.

Whitten serves as a machinist’s mate nuclear first class stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Detachment in San Diego, the U.S. Navy confirmed.  Whitten enlisted in 2009, with his home state listed as Texas, and he was stationed on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier from 2011 to February 2016, naval records show.

TX Doctor Believes In This System

.jpg photo of Chaplin for Child Advocate
Melissa Zenteno, a chaplain at One Safe Place.

Texas doctor seeks to stop Child Abuse
before it can happen

FORT WORTH, TX  –  A Texas doctor believes a modeling system that’s successfully identified neighborhoods, streets and even specific businesses where shootings and other crimes are likely to occur can help stop child abuse and neglect before it happens.

Dyann Daley started a nonprofit this summer to help communities create maps that can zero in on areas as small as a few city blocks where such maltreatment is likeliest to happen, helping prevent it and allowing advocacy groups to better target their limited resources.

“This approach is really focused on prevention,” said Daley, a pediatric anesthesiologist.  “Because if you know where something is going to happen, then you can do something to stop it.”

Unlike the common hot spot mapping approach, which identifies high-frequency areas of child abuse and neglect based on cases that have already happened, Daley’s risk terrain modeling approach identifies other factors that indicate an area is fertile ground for abuse so that efforts can be made to head it off.  Such prevention not only can save lives, but also can help at-risk children avoid the often lifelong harmful effects of maltreatment, including a likelihood of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and anxiety, and higher risk of aggressive or criminal behavior.

“Hot spots tell you where past crimes have occurred but don’t explain why,” said Joel Caplan, one of two Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice professors who created risk terrain modeling. Caplan said mapping of hot spots assumes that crimes will continue to occur in the same location.

Risk terrain modeling was initially used to understand why shootings were happening repeatedly at certain locations.  Caplan said that such modeling has since been used in a variety of areas, including traffic planning and suicides, but that Daley’s work is the first he knows of applying it to maltreatment of children.

The modeling has helped police departments across the country identify areas to target and strategies to use to reduce certain crimes.

Caplan said a project in Atlantic City, N.J., found laundromats, convenience stores and vacant properties were high-risk locations for shootings and robberies.  Interventions this year included police regularly checking in at the convenience stores and city officials prioritizing efforts to clean up vacant lots and board up vacant properties near those convenience stores and laundromats.  He said results for the first five months show a 20 percent reduction in violent crimes.

“It gives us an idea of which risk factors we should focus on if we want to make the biggest impact, and that’s something you can’t do with hot spot mapping,” Daley said.

Daley adapted the modeling for Fort Worth as executive director of the Cook Children’s Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, a post she left in May before starting her nonprofit, Predict-Align-Prevent Inc.

After using the model to analyze 10 known risk factors for child abuse and neglect, she found the most predictive risk factors for child maltreatment in Fort Worth were incidents of domestic violence, runaways, aggravated assaults and sexual assaults.

Perhaps surprisingly, when poverty was removed as a factor, the model’s predictive accuracy improved, said Daley.  She added that the most influential risk factors might change depending on the city, especially for rural versus urban areas.

The next step is determining what prevention strategies work. Daley said success will be measured by reductions in child abuse and highly correlative risk factors including violent crime, domestic violence and teen pregnancy.

Officials at the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment will spend the coming months coordinating a plan for specific interventions in Fort Worth.

“We’ve got the maps, and we think we know where the risks are increased in our specific community.  The big question that has to be answered is: What are you going to do about it?” said Larry Tubb, senior vice president of the unit that oversees the center.  He said strategies could include neighborhood watch groups and early childhood development centers.

David Sanders, an executive vice president at Casey Family Programs, called Daley’s work “incredibly promising” and said it now needs to be paired with research on what interventions work.

“There are a couple of interventions that seem to impact communities, but we just don’t have enough,” he said.

Daley distributed the mapping information to a variety of Fort Worth groups, noting that the prevalence of churches made them a good starting point for prevention efforts.

At the Tarrant Baptist Association, leadership director Becky Biser inserted pins into a map on the wall to mark churches of all denominations in high risk areas, helping assess what churches are doing and what more can be done.

“For me, a picture says a lot. … It’s in a lot of people’s neighborhoods,” Biser said.

Melissa Zenteno, chaplain at One Safe Place, which helps victims of domestic violence, has been talking to pastors about her organization’s services.

Some experts have concerns about the mapping approach, especially regarding interventions.

Neil Guterman, director of the violence prevention program at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, said he fears that the mapping could lead to disproportionally intervening in marginalized communities in coercive ways.  He said he could see its merits, though, if it’s used the right way.

“If the tool is married with supportive strategies that we know can actually help and make a difference, then that would be very helpful,” he said