A 5-year-old New Mexico boy’s claim that thirst led him to down mouthwash that made him drunk contributed to the arrest of his father and the father’s girlfriend on abuse charges, PEOPLE confirms.
Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, say the child and a 6-year-old sister had been the target of physical abuse allegedly carried out by Tyriese Howard, 25, and 23-year-old Breya Allen, Howard’s live-in girlfriend, whom the children called “mom,” according to an arrest warrant obtained by PEOPLE.
The kids — in addition to the 5- and 6-year-olds, the household included a 3-year-old boy — told Dr. Shalon Nienow, a physician with the New Mexico Hospital Child Abuse Response Team, that they would receive “whoopins” and were choked, punched in the face and struck with hangers, belts, cords, shoes and spatulas, according to the warrant.
Police and medical staff at the hospital noticed evidence of multiple injuries on the 5- and 6-year-old, with scars that indicated “repeated physical child abuse,” according to Albuquerque police.
“Tyriese and Breya both maintained they did not know how” the 5-year-old “sustained his multiple injuries,” Officer Joann Lopez wrote in the warrant. “Breya claimed the cuts and scars on [the 5-year-old’s] neck were caused from eczema.”
The children said they kept quiet because they were told “snitches get switches.”
During a forensic interview, the 5-year-old told investigators that his father “tells him he hates him over and over and [the boy] feels like he wants to kill him.”
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Police began investigating after the 5-year-old arrived at Presbyterian Hospital via ambulance with a blood-alcohol content of .20 — nearly three times the state’s legal driving limit of 0.08 percent, according to KRQE.
“I feel bad, like I feel like I should have heard something,” Diana Yesville, a neighbor who lives downstairs from the family, told KOB. “I mean, there’s a lot of music; maybe that’s it. But it’s not like I’m completely oblivious. I thought I would have hard something.”
“I didn’t see the children very often,” she said. “I saw them occasionally, but I didn’t really hear any screaming, nothing like that.”
Another, unnamed neighbor alleged in an interview with KRQE that “whenever the ‘mom’ would get upset, she would grab the kids from one arm and like drag them.”
Police said the children spoke openly about the abuse they’d allegedly received, and the 5-year-old told Dr. Nienow that he drank the alcoholic mouthwash because he was thirsty.
The youngest child told investigators he also had seen the 5-year-old drink from the toilet “and it is their dad’s idea to do this,” according to the arrest warrant.
Police said that over the past three years, they had responded to seven calls at the family’s apartment involving noise, disturbances and a custody dispute. They described two of the calls as welfare checks.
Neither Allen nor Howard have prior criminal histories. Both appeared in court Friday on allegations of child abuse involving at least two of the the children.
It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys or had entered pleas. The judge set a cash or surety bond of $50,000 for each.
The 5-year-old and a sibling were placed by the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department with a foster family, reports KRQE.
The location of the third child was not immediately available.