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Murrieta 5-year-old at center of abuse probe was malnourished, sleeping on a plank of wood, documents show

By in Press Enterprise on August 24, 2017

By Alex Groves

A 5-year-old Murrieta boy at the center of a child cruelty investigation was malnourished and was sleeping on a plank of wood instead of a mattress, according to court documents that reveal the conditions that led police to believe the boy was being abused.

The boy’s father, Benjamin Matthew Whitten, and the father’s girlfriend, Jeryn Christine Johnson, each pleaded not guilty Thursday.

The boy remained in grave condition Thursday, said Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad. His prognosis for recovery is poor, he said.

Attorney Earl Roberts, who was representing Johnson, said he had no comment at this time.

A message left for Richard Briones-Colman, who was representing Whitten, wasn’t immediately returned at noon Thursday.

Court documents show that Johnson called 911 shortly after 10 a.m. Aug. 15 to report that the boy was not breathing. She told dispatchers she found him unresponsive in his bed and had moved him to the couch.

Medical aid showed up and started treating the boy. Officers from the Murrieta Police Department took note of his appearance, according to the document, a search warrant declaration authored by Detective John Therein.

One of the officers “immediately noticed how malnourished John Doe was,” the declaration states. “John Doe was very skinny and it appeared he had not been eating properly.”

The officer went to the boy’s bedroom, where he found a lock on the outside so the boy could be locked into his room, according to the declaration.

The boy was sleeping on a plank of wood instead of a mattress and attached to the bed was a blue rope that “may have been used to tie down John Doe,” according to the document.

At Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego it was determined the boy had injuries to his head, spinal cord, abdomen, abrasions to his neck and was malnourished in a way consistent […]    

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