LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Deputies with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office arrested a couple on May 19 in connection to allegations they both had used a ping pong-type paddle on at least two separate occasions to hit an 11-year-old boy's buttocks more than 30 times.
In the last incident, the boy's father paddled him almost 40 times and left large bruises on the boy's rear end because the child had given his friend a bag of chips and a sandwich, according to the arrest affidavit.
Steven Clayton Hunt, 33, and Britni Leann Rhodes, 32, both of Lufkin, were each arrested and charged with third-degree felony injury to a child with the intent to cause injury. Both Hunt and Rhodes posted unspecified bail amounts and were released from the jail on May 20.
According to the arrest affidavit, an ACSO detective spoke with a Child Protective Services investigator on May 19. The CPS official told the detective that she was investigating a new allegation of abuse in regard to two boys, ages 12 and 11.
The CPS investigator told the detective that she was at one child's school, and she had interviewed the two boys.
A school staff member called the CPS investigator and said that the 11-year-old boy appeared to be having difficulty sitting down in class, the affidavit stated. The school's behavioral specialist was brought in, and the boy explained that his bottom hurt because he got a "spanking" the night before.
The 11-year-old boy told the behavioral specialist that he had gotten the "discipline" from his father, the affidavit stated. When the boy showed the school employee a portion of his buttocks, the employee saw "what appeared to be massive bruising covering the child's buttocks," the affidavit stated.
At that point, the school notified CPS, and CPS then, in turn, got in touch with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office.
Photos the CPS investigator took of the 11-year-old's bottom showed "a massive amount of purple and red colored bruising" on both buttocks, the affidavit stated.
The 11-year-old boy told the CPS investigator that he got the spanking from his father because he had given a friend a bag of chips and a sandwich the day before, the affidavit stated. According to the affidavit, the boy said his father used an object similar to a "ping pong paddle" to hit him, the affidavit stated.
The alleged victim told the CPS investigator that his father hit him close to 40 times with the paddle, the affidavit stated.
When the CPS investigator spoke to the boy's older brother, the child backed up what the 11-year-old had told her. The 12-year-old also told the CPS investigator that Rhodes gave his brother 41 "swats" about two weeks before the most recent incident, the affidavit stated.
"When questioned about the number, [the older brother] stated he was counting the number of strikes that were given,' the affidavit stated.
Both boys allegedly told the CPS investigator that Hunt struck the 11-year-old boy hard enough at one point that he fell to the ground. Rhodes then picked him up and told him to "get back up and take more," the affidavit stated.
Ashley Cook works with Harold's House and said many times teachers are the only help school children have.
"Teachers are what I call the frontline for children," Cook said. "They may be the only person who is going to pay attention to a child on a regular basis if unfortunately there isn't good care in the child's life and other areas a teacher might be the only one.."
Later, the two boys were taken to Harold's House for forensic interviews, and so a nurse at the facility could photograph the child's injuries. On the way to the Children's Advocacy Center, the 11-year-old boy told the ACSO detective that his father constantly tells them that they will never succeed in life, the affidavit stated.
The boy also allegedly said this wasn't the first time he had been "hurt" at home and that his brother had been "hurt" in the past. However, the boy would not go into any detail about what he said, the affidavit stated.
What the boys told the interviewers and the photos taken by the nurse were consistent with what they had told the CPS investigator earlier. The nurse also told the ACSO detective that the 11-year-old boy told her during his examination that he didn't know if he could "take it like a man" if he was spanked again, the affidavit stated.
Cook said their are several signs people should look for if they believe a child is being abused.
<"Anything that catches the the eye that seems to be negative or concerning bears talking to them," Cook said. "[Try] asking them if they are okay, if anyone has been hurting them ?"