During an investigation into burns and bruises suffered by a 4-year-old, the child himself told city police that "Dakota hurts him."
The little boy, a Henderson resident, has allegedly been the target of abuse at the hands of another Henderson resident, 23-year-old Dakota A. Bruce, 2000 block of Old Madisonville Road.
Bruce was arrested Thursday on a charge of first-degree criminal abuse (child under 12) after he allegedly beat the 4-year-old and then burned him with a cigarette lighter earlier this month.
This charge comes less than two years after another investigation in which Bruce was charged with fourth-degree assault (child abuse) after squeezing the same child and getting rough with him because he wouldn't stay in bed, according to court documents filed in the Henderson Judicial Center. The child, then 2-years-old, suffered multiple bruises to his stomach and back. According to a 2016 arrest warrant, the child's father questioned the child's mother about the bruises and she said the babysitter did it. She then allegedly begged the father not to call social services "as they were already involved," court documents said.
Bruce pleaded guilty to that charge in 2017 and was sentenced to 365 days which he served a portion of that in combination between the jail and home incarceration.
The most recent investigation began on June 13, when emergency responders were called to a residence in the 2000 block of Old Madisonville Road due to an unresponsive 4-year-old child, according to Henderson Police Detective Jake Isonhood.
The story first responders received was that the child had hit his head and that he was barely breathing, according to court documents.
Bruce was in the home with the child and told police that, "the child was in the bathroom and was told to go to his room. Bruce said he heard a thump and when he walked into the bathroom, the child was on the floor unresponsive. He said he tried to administer CPR and then put underwear and socks on the boy so he wouldn't be naked when emergency responders arrived."
The boy was taken to St. Vincent in Evansville where bruises and burn marks were located on his body, court papers said. The burns were on the child's feet and were consistent with a cigarette lighter, authorities said.
Medical personnel told police that the child had also suffered a brain bleed.
The mother of the child told city police she was at work and then at the grocery store the day her child was found unresponsive, officials said. The mother said that Bruce watches the 4-year-old and a 4-month-old while she works, authorities said.
When Isonhood interviewed the 4-year-old, the child told the detective that "Dakota hurts him" and then put his hand on the left side of his head, court papers said. Isonhood said the brain bleed is located on the left side of the boy's head.
The little boy "also made a comment about saying something different or someone would have to leave," the arrest warrant said.
One of the child's doctors asked him if he'd ever been burned. The child said yes, according to court documents.
"A forensic interview was conducted on June 22 at the Children's Advocacy Center in Henderson. During the interview, the 4-year-old was asked how he got the injury to his feet and he made a comment about a cigarette lighter on his foot. When asked who did that, the 4-year-old said 'Dakota.' When asked where it happened the child said in front of the couch. And when asked what Dakota did with the cigarette lighter, the 4-year-old said that Dakota turned the flame off and hurt his foot with it."
On Thursday, members of the US Marshal's Fugitive Task Force located Bruce in the 1400 block of Washington Street where he was arrested. He was lodged at the Henderson County Detention Center under a $7,500 full-cash bond.
This article is provided via the Kentucky Press News Service.