MURRIETA (CBSLA.com) – A Navy sailor and his live-in girlfriend have been arrested on accusations they abused and tortured the sailor’s 5-year-old son and kept him in unsanitary living conditions in their Murrieta home.
Police arrested 33-year-old Benjamin Whitten and 25-year-old Jeryn Johnson after responding to a 911 call Tuesday morning at their home in the 24000 block of Verdun Lane.
Murrieta Police and firefighters arrived at the home to find Whitten’s biological son with severe injuries. He was eventually airlifted to a San Diego hospital, where he was in grave condition, police said. The nature of his injuries were not disclosed.
Also in the home, authorities found 11 dogs, four cats and two fish. The animals were seized by Riverside County Animal Control, police said.
Whitten and Johnson have been each charged with counts of willful harm to a child, infliction of great bodily injury and torture.
According to U.S. Navy records, Whitten is a Machinist’s Mate Nuclear 1st Class who works out of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Detachment San Diego. He has been enlisted in the Navy since 2009.
Neighbors told KCAL 9 they had not seen the boy since around Christmas. A neighbor also said that when the boy was rushed from the residence on Tuesday, he appeared to be immobile and not breathing.
On Wednesday evening, neighbors held a prayer vigil on the boy’s lawn. They came with cards, gifts, candles and balloons. Some told KCAL 9 they didn’t even know a child lived in the home.
“I didn’t even know there was a child who lived in the house,” Kristine Hendrickson said. “Did not know. We’ve lived here for 21 years.”