LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Lufkin police have arrested a Houston man and woman in connection to severe abuse of a three-year-old girl now being treated for internal injuries at a Houston hospital.
Child Protective Services spokeswoman Shari Pulliam said the agency has taken custody of that child as well as an infant which was born premature earlier this month and who is staying in a hospital.
According to Lt. David Young, it appears the injuries have occurred over an unknown period of time, as the girl had old and fresh scars all over her body.
"There were injuries ranging from scars to fresh injuries, scabs on the buttocks where the flesh had actually been beaten away. Her hands were so swollen she couldn't close her fists, marks on her hands, marks on her feet, marks on the bottom of her feet, marks all over the torso and buttocks," Young said.
Young said the investigation started Tuesday afternoon after someone called police and advised they look into a situation involving the abused child.
Young said police arrived at the 900 block of Picardy Lane at 12:31 p.m. and Elisiah "Big Boy" Phipps, 35, answered the door and said nobody else was home. Young said officers felt he was lying and were able to talk to letting him inside, where he led them to a bedroom closet, where the child and her mother, Ashley Wingo, 25, were hiding.
According to the on-view narrative written in the arrest affidavit, the child had multiple injuries: "multiple streaks of broken skin with swelling on the child's back, bottom, and legs consistent with being hit with a switch or cord, multiple abrasions approximately 2 inches in diameter on the child's bottom with broken skin, swelling and bruising to the child's hands, swelling and bruising to the child's feet, abrasions to the child's hands, bruising and red marks to the child's back, and streaks of broken skin to the child's abdomen. Officers observed that some of the abrasions appeared to be infected and had decaying flesh."
According to the affidavit, Phipps told detectives he had been using belts, switches and shoes to discipline the child. He said he did it in response to bad behavior and "spanking" her six to 10 times a day. He said he knew she needed medical attention but continued to discipline her anyway.
Wingo told detectives she had seen Phipps strike the child with a belt on multiple occasions but she never reported Phipps to law enforcement nor would she seek help or medical attention for her daughter.
According to the affidavit, the child was taken to a Lufkin hospital, where it was discovered she had internal bleeding. She was then taken to a Houston hospital.
"This is still an ongoing investigation and the charges could be upped, depending on what we find," Young said.
Phipps is charged with third-degree injury to a child and Wingo is charged with state-jail felony injury to a child.
Pulliam said the couple had just moved to Lufkin earlier this month. CPS had investigated a case when they lived in Houston following a complaint. But they took the child to a doctor, who found no marks or bruises on the child.
Laura Squires, the director for Harold's House, says if anyone has a suspicion of abuse, it's important to report it.
"It's important for neighbors and teachers and Sunday school teachers to be vigilant and to pay attention to the kids and if they suspect that there is something wrong than let the authorities know," Squires said.
Squires listed some things that might indicate that a child is being abused.
"Some of the signs that a child has been abused - if you see unexplained injuries on the child, if there's changes in the child's behavior, especially if they've been a really good student and now suddenly they're not a good student anymore," Squires said.
The Harold's House director also said abused children often exhibit regressive behavior.
"They start sucking their thumb, or they start having toilet issues; then you'll know that there might be something going on," Squires said. "Or if they are scared to go home, that's another sign."
If you think someone you know is being abused, Squires says to call the CPS hotline at 1-800-252-5400. It is an anonymous call.