An area man was arrested and charged in a child abuse case in Park Hills involving his adopted son.

Jeffrey Sawtelle, 50, of Park Hills, is being charged with a class D felony of abuse or neglect of a child.

According to a probable cause statement, on Oct. 3, a woman came into the Park Hills Police Department of her own freewill to speak to a detective and the Division of Family Services in reference to an ongoing investigation involving her adopted son, who is less than 18-years-old.

The detective read the woman her Miranda Rights and she chose to continue to speak with officials. She was asked to explain the bruises on her son’s back and side and she said her husband, Sawtelle, spanked the boy with a belt on Sept. 19 when he got home from work.

The woman said the reason Sawtelle spanked the boy was because while she was at church with the child, he apparently ate their 4-year-old child’s food and was confronted about it. The boy got mad and went in the church bathroom where he pooped and then smeared it on the walls of the bathroom.

She said she was too mad to handle the discipline so she asked Sawtelle to handle it. She said when he got home he took the boy to the bedroom and spanked him with a belt. She did not witness the spanking, but knew it happened.

The woman denied seeing any bruising on the boy and wasn’t even aware of it until she was sent photographs of them by Sawtelle on Sept. 29. Apparently he had taken the boy to the doctor for a checkup and get medicine.

The doctor noticed the bruises and reported it to the Missouri Abuse Hotline and Sawtelle told the woman that he had no idea how it happened. He said the boy claimed a teacher or a student did it. The woman said Sawtelle has a bad temper and has acted out his anger by punching holes in their walls and even knocked a window out of their vehicle.

The detective asked the woman if she felt the bruising was excessive and she agreed it was. The detective then spoke with Sawtelle and asked him to explain how the boy’s back and side got bruised.

The detective reported that Sawtelle initially denied knowing what happened to the boy and it was claimed that his wife asked him to handle disciplining the boy for eating the 4-year-olds food and smearing his poop all over the church bathroom walls.

Sawtelle admitted to using a belt and swatting the boy twice on his butt. The detective explained to Sawtelle that there was no way that two swats on the butt bruised the boy’s back and side like that. The detective also said there were at least three to five swats.

Sawtelle eventually admitted that he wasn’t sure how many swats he gave and that the belt probably did hit him on the side. Sawtelle said he didn’t mean to hurt the boy, but he was trying to get away from the belt.

Sawtelle also admitted that the spanking was excessive and that he was sorry for what he had done. The reason he didn’t tell the truth from the start was because he said he was afraid and ashamed. At that time Sawtelle was released pending the application of formal charges.

The detective wrote in his report that when the bruises were first viewed on Sept. 28, it was one solid mass and he couldn’t tell what may have caused it. The boy told the detective he had fallen on his bike and the detective asked him to show him where he landed on his bike.

The boy led him to a green bike and pointed to the kickstand area of the bike and said he fell on that. He also said he was sure that is what happened. The boy also told two other officers the same thing.

The detective said they had also been informed that the boy told other people that kids in his neighborhood did it, teachers did it and students at school did it. The detective said he was told that the boy is autistic and has very limited ability to communicate.

A few days later the detective received more photographs of the bruised area and now that the bruise was settled, several defining lines could be seen, which were consistent with numerous belt strikes.

A warrant was issued for Sawtelle on Oct. 18 and was served on Oct. 20. A $10,000 bond was posted that same day and Sawtelle's arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 7 at 9 a.m.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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