Abuse charges

A West Plains man has been charged after a mother accused him of spanking a 1-year-old child hard enough to leave bruises on the child’s lower back and buttocks.

Joshua Don Barker, 38, Sesson Street, was arrested Friday on CC Highway on charges of abuse or neglect of a child and first degree endangering the welfare of a child creating substantial risk, as well as an outstanding warrant for a charge of nonsupport.

Investigator Justin Riley with the Howell County Sheriff’s Office, in documents submitted to prosecutors, said that on Nov. 30 a deputy and an investigator with the Division of Family Services went to a home in Pomona in response to a hotline call of suspected child abuse.

The child’s mother was spoken to and the children in the home, with the exception of the toddler, were removed and placed in the care of a relative. The toddler was taken to Ozarks Medical Center for examination, where hospital staff reportedly were unable to find any injuries to the child.

On Dec. 2 the child’s mother reportedly went to the Howell County Sheriff’s Department to speak with an investigator about the allegations. There, she told law enforcement that she had left the 1-year-old in the care of Barker, her live-in boyfriend at the time. She told investigators that, when she returned home, Barker told her he had spanked the child and left marks.

Later that evening, the mother reported, she saw bruises on the child’s back and buttocks during a diaper change, adding she was afraid to report the abuse because of threats Barker made. She reportedly provided photos that she said were of the child’s injuries, which Riley said appeared to show a child who had “serious bruises on the lower back and buttock region.”

The mother also alleged that, when Barker moved out of the house, he stole a 9 mm Taurus handgun and about $5,000 worth of furniture.

When Riley spoke with Barker about the incident on Dec. 3, Barker reportedly admitted to spanking the toddler because the child had bitten him, but said he didn’t see any marks on the child from the spanking.  

Barker is held on $5,000 bail, according to court documents, and on pleaded not guilty to the charges and waived arraignment Wednesday morning before 37th Circuit Presiding Judge Steven Privette. He is next scheduled to appear in court at 1 p.m. Tuesday for a case setting.

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