Beaten and abused Junior's story is heard

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) association held a luncheon Friday at First United Methodist Church's McKnight Center.

The CASA association's goal is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused and neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.

Volunteers through the program are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don't get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or grieve in inappropriate group or foster homes.

Junior's House, Inc. is a non-profit agency that started in partnership with CASA in 2001.

Junior's House provides prevention, intervention and treatment services to physically and sexually abused children and their families within a child-focused team approach.

Capt. Joyce McConnell, who was in law enforcement in Lincoln County at the time, started the house after a child abuse case years ago.

"It was a Saturday, mid July, when I received a call from dispatch about physical abuse of a child," said McConnell to the large crowded room of the McKnight Center.

While rushing to the scene, she received another call from dispatch stating the child had expired.

McConnell said she was astonished at what she saw when she arrived. After arriving she was told by another officer that the child reminded her of her own son and that she couldn't handle it.

"On the hood of the old model brown car was the lifeless body of a male child. As I got closer I looked into the face of the child, and his eyes were wide open, staring at the beautiful blue sky," said McConnell.

She later came to know that the boy lying on the hood of the car was six-year-old Junior who was known as the "whipping boy" in the family.

Junior had three siblings who also received abuse from their parents.

McConnell said that the boy's body was covered in urine, vomit and blood.

After entering the home where the boy lived, she found that there were no light bulbs, beds or furniture in the children's bedrooms. The blanket and carpet in Junior's room were soiled with his body fluids. The parents later explained that the children didn't have furniture in their rooms because they chewed on it.

There was a paddle in the home that had each child's name written on it. Beside each name were Xs, and Junior had the most.

"We later found out that the day of his death, Junior's two siblings pushed him around in a wheel barrow in hopes of the sunshine waking him up," said McConnell.

She said on Friday he was taken the health department to get his immunizations. The doctor questioned as to why Junior looked so weak. His mother told the nurse that she thought he had the flu.

She said that Junior was beaten on Wednesday and again on Saturday until his internal organs were torn to the point where he bled to death.

During an interview with the father, he told McConnell that Junior kept interrupting his video game so he punched him and kicked him in the stomach.

Medical examiners later established that the kick to Junior's stomach was equivalent of a concrete block being dropped on him, and there was no way he could have survived.

McConnell said the things the children had to endure were unbearable.

The parents made one of Junior's siblings eat dog feces after he didn't clean it up fast enough.

The children also were made to sit on ice so their skin wouldn't show bruises after their parents beat them.

"I cried and I cried and I cried to the point where I woke my husband and children in the middle of the night. We all sat up and cried for a child we had never known," said McConnell.

After this happened several times, McConnell sat and wrote down everything that was on her mind. She joined a leadership class where she was told to come up with a project that would be for the betterment of Lincoln County.

"I couldn't think of anything better than to help children," said McConnell.

She formed the Junior's House so children would have a place to go, let out their secrets and have a chance to heal.

"We weren't able to save Junior, but I think we have saved countless other children and have had a tremendous impact on the lives of children everywhere," said McConnell.

"We really have to be their voice and step out there to save our children."

Although Junior's House is funded through grants, CASA receives no state funding. They are both based solely on donations.