A 24-year-old man abused a child he was babysitting by grabbing the boy’s face hard enough to cause bruises, Chief Deputy Don Bass said.
Marcus Alonzo-Lamont Graham, of Bay St. Louis, faces a felony child abuse charge involving a child who is 3 1/2, Bass said.
Deputies arrested Graham on Monday after the child’s mother took him to a hospital.
Striking a child on the face or the head falls under the state’s criteria of different forms of felonious child abuse when inflicted intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.
For instance, it’s a felony to strike a child under the age of 5 on the head, and to strike a minor under the age of 14 on the head with a closed fist.
The boy’s mother had asked Graham to babysit him, and another man was present when it happened, Bass said.
“Apparently Marcus got upset with the child’s misbehavior and grabbed him by the face, inflicting bruises,” Bass said.
“Marcus admitted to grabbing the child in anger,” Bass said.
We want to make it public that if you strike a child in the head, that’s probably going to be a felony charge. We’re just trying to make the public aware so people know and don’t do it. We’d rather not see this happen.
Johnny Alison, Hancock County sheriff’s investigator
Detective Johnny Alison said he questioned Graham and the other man, and both gave statements.
“We want to make it public that if you strike a child in the head, that’s probably going to be a felony charge,” Alison said.
“We’re just trying to make the public aware so people know and don’t do it. We’d rather not see this happen.”
Graham was being held at the Hancock County jail Tuesday on a $20,000 bond.
The state’s child abuse law includes burning, torturing, choking, starving, smothering or injuring with a deadly weapon among the most gruesome forms of abuse.
However, injuries that cause bruises, bleeding or swelling can also qualify as a felony act.
If the abuse causes serious injuries, the penalty is five years to life in prison. For less serious injuries, the penalty is two to 10 years.
To report child abuse, you can call your local law enforcement agency, have injuries documented by a doctor or call the state’s Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000.
The state has a misdemeanor law that punishes failure to report child abuse or to willfully make a false report. The maximum penalty is a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.