A West Richland man is charged with hitting his girlfriend’s young son with a studded belt and locking the boy in his bedroom.
The actions by Christopher J. McNutt allegedly occurred when his girlfriend was gone from the home.
However, after school officials learned of the allegations and brought in police and Child Protective Services, the mother was given the opportunity to meet with her children but instead sent McNutt so she could go to work, according to court documents.
McNutt, 37, denied the allegations, saying “he does not physically discipline the children,” documents said.
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He pleaded innocent Thursday in Benton County Superior Court to third-degree assault of a child. Trial was set for June 8.
Richland police were contacted Sept. 12 by an administrative assistant at Sacajawea Elementary School after a teacher overheard the boy’s sister talking about the alleged abuse. The teacher notified a school counselor, who spoke with both children before alerting the administration.
Officer Jeff Muai went to the Richland school to meet with the 9-year-old boy, who disclosed that McNutt was hitting him across his legs using a black belt with metal studs on it, court documents said.
The boy also said McNutt switched the doorknob around on his bedroom door so he could lock the boy in, documents said.
The boy claimed that his mother didn’t know about it.
Muai asked to see any bruising or marks, and the boy lifted up his shorts to expose purple bruises on both thighs. Muai noted that the bruises appeared as if they could have been caused by a belt.
The alleged abuse had been going on since June.
The boy’s sister then told Muai that McNutt also used his hand to hit, and that her brother would get locked in his room for hours at a time and she would try to sneak him food or open his door so he could use the bathroom, court documents said.
A CPS investigator responded to the school and found overnight placement for the kids. When Muai called their mother to say CPS was with her kids at Sacajawea, the mom said she wouldn’t be coming to the school because she had to work and that McNutt would come instead, documents said.
Child welfare officials scheduled a meeting four days later to decide how to care for the kids and develop a plan for services. The mother and McNutt attended, and during the meeting McNutt denied being physical with the kids.
McNutt is out of custody on his personal recognizance. He has been ordered to have no contact with the boy while the case is pending.