AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A report from a concerned shopper at the Niles Target sparked a child abuse investigation in Austintown.
The shopper called police after spotting a child in the parking lot Sunday evening who was covered in bruises.
Voice of 911 caller: “There’s a little boy in here with his family. He’s beaten to a pulp and so skinny, he looks like he’s starved and I just can’t walk away from it.”
This led an officer to the child’s home on N. Raccoon Road, according to a police report.
The report states that an officer went to the child’s home and found three children there, one of whom had bruises and cuts on his arms and legs. The child wasn’t wearing shoes or socks and the child’s feet were dirty and bright red, the report stated.
The officer spoke to two adults — the child’s mother and stepfather — in the home who blamed a dog for the injuries. The child’s mother said the child yells, causing the dog to grab his arm and pull on it, according to the report.
Police spoke with the boy who told the officer that the injuries came from the dog. When asked if the parents pull the dog off of him he responded, “No, that is my punishment,” but would not elaborate.
Police then looked through the home and found urine and feces throughout it, as well as a tent on the floor where the child was said to have slept, the report stated. According to the report, officers also found locks and chains in a closet inside a bedroom. The boy’s stepfather said food was stored in the locked closet, but police said there was no food in there, only a couple of blankets on the ground as well as clothes and electronics.
As part of their investigation, officers spoke to the other children in the home who told officers that the boy gets attacked by the dog when he throws a temper tantrum. They also said he gets in trouble for eating their food, saying he has his own food — mini ravioli — that he doesn’t like.
Officers reported finding two Golden Retrievers that appeared to be malnourished. The report states that they were so skinny “you were able to observe their bones through their skin.” One of the dogs also had a cut on its nose that was bleeding.
Animal Charity was called and removed six dogs and two cats from the home.
Police also called Children Services, and a family member took custody of the kids, who were removed from the home. That family member reported that she hadn’t seen the boy in three weeks but that he was uninjured when she saw him.
Police noted that while the boy was leaving, he seemed uncomfortable giving his mother a hug and offered his stepfather a handshake.
Police said the boy’s mother was upset about the situation, saying she knew it would happen and things went downhill after she got a job, the report stated.
Charges haven’t been filed yet in the case but they are expected.
Gerry Ricciutti contributed to this report.