RIVERSIDE (CBS) — A Riverside County man accused of whipping, beating and tying up his young daughters while growing marijuana in his bedroom will stand trial on torture and other charges, a judge said Wednesday.
Jeremiah Eugene Scott, 24, could face life in prison if convicted of two counts each of torture, child endangerment and corporal injury to a child, as well as one count of cultivating marijuana.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Taylor found there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial following an hour-long preliminary hearing and scheduled a post-indictment arraignment for March 9.
Sheriff’s Investigator Amado Layos testified that last Feb. 26, deputies were called to Scott’s mother’s house in the 7300 block of Rockridge Road to investigate a report of child abuse.
When deputies arrived, they discovered the defendant’s 4-month-old daughter Jasmine and 2-year-old daughter Miah bound with tape around their hands and legs, lying on the floor of his bedroom, according to Layos.
Jasmine had a sock stuffed in her mouth, as well, he said.
The children’s mother, 24-year-old Erica Monique Henry, had left them in Scott’s care while she went out, according to the deputy.
The defendant allegedly flew into a rage when Miah dropped a French fry into his drink, prompting him to drag the toddler by the ponytail from his car into the house, Layos said.
Scott’s mother and stepfather witnessed the act and called the sheriff’s department after they found the children tied up in his room, the deputy said.
Scott slipped out of the residence but was arrested a short time later when deputies spotted him walking in the area.
According to Layos, a pediatric physician at Loma Linda University Medical Center examined the children and reported that both had whip marks on their backs from a belt or extension cord, strangulation impressions on their necks, lacerated lips and bruised eyes.
Deputies seized a half-dozen marijuana plants from Scott’s bedroom closet, according to sheriff’s officials.
Henry was originally charged with two felony counts of child abuse, but ended up pleading guilty in December to a misdemeanor count of child endangerment and was sentenced to parenting classes.
The children are now living with relatives.
Scott’s attorney, Greg Silver, argued that the torture charges were excessive, telling the judge that they were designed for a more severe allegation, such as “someone pouring gasoline into an open wound and causing further injury.”
Deputy District Attorney Michael Carney responded that one necessary element to allege torture is evidence of a defendant seeking revenge.
“Mr. Scott did what he did for a vengeful purpose,” Carney said, referring to the French fry incident. “It doesn’t make sense to me that someone would do that. But that’s what happened that day.”
After considering the children’s ages and the circumstances, Taylor agreed.
“Why didn’t the defendant pursue some more traditional form of punishment?” the judge said. “The evidence indicates the defendant lifted a child off the ground by the hair and walked with her suspended (over 90 feet). The children were bound with tape, and the youngest had a sock stuffed in her mouth. The people have met their burden.”
Scott is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)