Sunday, August 27, 2006

Give up your myspace password, or get ears and leg stapled, pick one.

MARTINSBURG — A Martinsburg man charged with felony child abuse Wednesday allegedly stapled his 16-year-old daughter’s ear and leg because she refused to give him her account password, according to court documents obtained by The Journal Thursday.

The name of the36-year-old man will not be published to protect the identity of the victim.

He was arrested Wednesday at his residence on Faulkner Avenue at about 3:15 p.m. by Patrolman Eric Neely of the Martinsburg City Police Department, police said.

The incident happened Aug. 1 at the man’s home. According to court records, the teen ran away from home after the incident. A day later her stepmother went to the police department and reported her missing to Neely. She told Neely there had been a family problem the previous night. The girl ran away during the night after they went to bed, records show.

Neely later spoke to an ex-boyfriend of the teen who told him about possible problems inside the home and that the girl might have gone to her grandmother’s home in Martinsburg.

Neely went to the apartment and spoke with the grandparents. They said they did pick up the teen the previous night at about 11:30 p.m. because she called and told them that she had been physically abused by her father and her stepmother, records show.

The victim’s grandmother said she was told the girl’s father got upset because she would not tell him her computer password. The victim also told her grandmother that her father threatened her and physically harmed her.

The girl was taken to the hospital, and a crisis worker and the Department of Health and Human Resources were contacted by emergency room personnel. A DHHR worker told Neely that the grandparents were given temporary custody of the juvenile until morning.

Two days after the alleged incident, Neely returned to the grandparents’ home and spoke with the victim. She explained that at about 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 1 her allegedly intoxicated father told her she needed to get into the computer room. She said her stepmother yelled at her about the password for her “MySpace” account, records show.

MySpace is a social networking Web site that allows users to post personal profiles, blogs, photos, MP3s, videos and other items. It’s the most popular Web site in the U.S, according to a story recently published by Reuters.

Profiles of those younger than 18 can only be accessed by those on the person’s “friend’s list” and users have the option of restricting access to their profiles.

Facing criticism and allegations that teens were managing to circumvent MySpace security restrictions and thus becoming potential targets for online sexual predators, the company recently added additional restrictions preventing users older than 18 from being able to add users younger than 18 as friends unless they knew the person’s full name or e-mail address.

The victim told Neely that she refused to divulge the password so she was made to stand in front of the computer for more than an hour. During that time she said her father was on the phone with his sister and stated that she would “endure more pain than she could take,” records show.

At about 9:20 p.m., the victim said her father got out of his chair and grabbed her by the throat and dragged her to the computer chair. He then made her sit down and told her that he would hurt her if that is what it took. He then grabbed her thumb, she said, and bent it back in an attempt to break it, records show.

He later let go because she did not answer him. He then left the room, telling her that it was only stage one and returned with a beer. He grabbed a stapler and slammed it on her leg, but the staple didn’t puncture her completely because of the pants she was wearing, records show.

He then grabbed her right ear near the top and stapled it, causing one of the prongs to pierce the skin. She then told him the password and the father and stepmother let her go to bed. Once they were asleep, she said she escaped through her balcony and contacted her grandparents, records show.

Neely examined the girl’s wounds and did see a small puncture wound on her right thigh and right ear. During the interview with Neely, the victim was visibly upset and appeared scared about her father coming to get her, records show.

The father was arraigned Wednesday by Magistrate Sandra Miller and later released after posting $25,000 bail. If convicted of child abuse he faces one to five years in prison.


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