Riverside County prosecutors say that a Murrieta couple is facing criminal charges for allegedly torturing and abusing a child, who remains in grave condition. Los Angeles Times reports that police received a 911 call on Tuesday about a child in “medical distress” at a home in the 24000 block of Verdun Lane.
Responding officers and members of the Murrieta Fire and Rescue found a frail and injured 5-year-old boy inside the Murrieta home who appeared to be malnourished and in need of immediate medical attention. Paramedics were called to the scene and began executing chest compressions on the child because he was said to have stopped breathing.
“They brought out the little boy on the stretcher, and they were trying to get him to breathe,” said a neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. “He wasn’t breathing. They were pushing on his chest.
“I’m really shocked. Having known them a little bit. That is really shocking to me. I would have never have imagined that going on next door.”
The child was transported by ambulance to an area hospital, but due to the severity of the Murrieta boy’s injuries, he was airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego County where he remains in grave condition.
An investigation was conducted after “police determined that the child’s injuries were the result of child abuse.” A 33-year-old Murrieta Navy sailor, Benjamin Whitten, who is the child’s biological father, and his live-in girlfriend, Jeryn Johnson, 25, were questioned.
A search warrant was later issued to rummage through the Murrieta couple’s home, where authorities say was in deplorable condition. Animal control officers had to remove 11 dogs, four cats, and two fish from the home.
Evidence gathered at the scene and information retrieved during Whitten and Johnson’s interviews led to their arrest, about 10 hours after the boy was found in their home.
The Murrieta couple was booked into the Cois Byrd Detention Center on suspicion of child abuse.
Neighbors held a vigil on Wednesday where they stated that the couple moved to the neighborhood almost two years ago, and within that timeframe, they rarely saw the child.
The Murrieta couple faced a judge on Thursday and were both charged with torture and cruelty to a child resulting in great bodily injury.
Whitten is being held on a $1 million bond while Johnson’s bond was set at $75,000.
If anyone has information regarding the Murrieta child abuse case, you are urged to contact Detective Sgt. Spencer Parker at (951) 461-6364.
The investigation is ongoing.
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