An Elkins couple is facing child abuse and neglect charges after a 5-year-old boy in their care nearly died from allegedly being forced to swallow more than a tablespoon of pepper.
Tina Marie Carver, 36, of Rural Route 4 Box 97, Teaberry Hills, is charged with two felony counts - child abuse and child neglect causing injury. Larry Neil Carver, 40, of the same address, is charged with felony child neglect causing injury.
According to court documents, officials received a 911 call March 14 about "a child choking on a teaspoon of pepper."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Brad Johnson
Attorney Matthew Fair, standing center, speaks to Larry and Tina Carver following a hearing in Randolph County Magistrate Court Monday.
The boy was transported to Davis Memorial Hospital and was found to be in full respiratory distress. He was then flown by HealthNet helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where he went into full respiratory failure, according to police reports.
Livesaving measures were administered to him six times, and he was eventually placed on life support in the Pediatrics Intensive Care unit of Ruby Memorial, according to court documents.
Once the child's condition stabilized, he was interviewed by Alyson Scott of the state Department of Health & Human Resources' Child Protective Services. He told her that "Mommy put pepper" in his mouth, and that he knocked the first spoonful of pepper out of her hand before she forced the second spoonful in his mouth, according to the police report.
Ruby Memorial's Dr. William D. Patten is quoted in the police report as saying that more than a tablespoonful of pepper was in the boy's stomach and lungs, and he had to be "suctioned multiple times." The police report states that, according to medical professionals, the boy could not have ingested that large of an amount on his own.
The police report, prepared by Trooper 1st Class K.A. Corley of the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police, details other alleged abuses as well.
Scott stated Tina Carver told her the boy sometimes eats his own feces. When Scott asked the boy why, he said he and his siblings all wear "diaper/pullups" and have to stay in bed until "it gets really light outside," according to court documents. The boy told Scott that if the children have an "accident" in their diapers, they have to eat "rotten" cheese sandwiches, and afterward are made to take a "cold bath" to clean off the "accident," according to the police report.
The boy told Scott he consumed his own feces "because he said he is that hungry," and he said that he sucked the urine out of his diaper because he was thirsty, according to court documents.
Scott said the boy told her he tries to hide his urine and feces so he can eat "regular food" because the "rotten" cheese sandwiches made him sick to his stomach. He said that if he has no "accidents," then he is allowed to eat normal food, according to the police report.
The boy also said he has been made to "squat down" for an extended period of time as a punishment, which made his legs hurt, the police report stated.
On Monday in Randolph County Magistrate Court, bond was reduced for the couple, and they waived their rights to preliminary hearings.
Tina Carver's bond had been set at $150,000 cash only, and Larry Carver's bond had been $100,000 cash only.
Attorney James Hawkins, representing Tina Carver, said the original bond amount for his client was "excessive and oppressive," and asked Magistrate Rob Elbon to set a more "reasonable" bond amount.
Attorney Matthew Fair, representing Larry Carver, also asked that his client's bond be reduced.
Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker said he would not oppose bond reduction in exchange for the Carvers' waiving of their rights to preliminary hearings.
"This was not an easy decision," Parker said during the hearing. "In looking at their criminal records, we had no reason to believe they would flee this jurisdiction."
Parker said he met with Scott, Corley and attorney Tim Prentice, the guardian ad litem for some of the minor children in the home, before reaching his decision.
Parker asked that a condition of the bail be that the Carvers have no contact with the alleged victim or with any unemancipated minors under the age of 18.
He also requested that the Carvers have only supervised visitation with their biological children, who will remain in the supervised custody of the relatives with whom they're currently staying.
Elbon granted the bond reduction motion, reducing Tina Carver's bond to $20,000 cash, surety or property, and Larry Carver's bond to $10,000 cash, surety or property.
Following the hearing, Hawkins said the bond reduction "was only appropriate under the circumstances. The $150,000 cash-only bail was clearly punitive. It was merely used as a tool to keep these people in jail.
"In addition, we're confidant that once this case gets to trial these people will be exonerated. There is ample evidence to show that these charges were brought prematurely without thorough investigation."