Trial begins for man accused in adopted son's brutal beating
By: JOHN C. ENSSLIN
El Paso County sheriff’s investigators thought at first they had seized a painted wooden rod from a man accused of using it to beat his adopted teenage son.
Later they realized it wasn’t paint. The rod was coated in the 15-year-old boy’s blood, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Ringle told jurors that Jeremiah Lovato used the club, his belt, a meat tenderizer and his fists to routinely beat the youngster over a two-year period that ended Jan. 3, 2010, when the boy fled to neighbors for help.
Ringle called it “the epitome of child abuse” showing jurors pictures of the boy’s bruised back and bloody buttocks and telling them of an untreated broken arm. After the last beating, the boy had to be hospitalized.
A defense attorney for Lovato quickly conceded that the pictures jurors saw were “horrible” and that his client, a 40-year-old maintenance worker with the Colorado Department of Transportation, bears some responsibility for what happened to the boy.
“We’re not going to dispute that,” attorney Shimon Kohn told jurors.
But Kohn said Lovato is not guilty of all the 24 counts prosecutors have filed against him, including first-degree assault and sexual assault on a child. The sex charge stems from an accusation that during the beatings, Lovato stomped on the boy’s testicles.
The Gazette, which normally does not identify alleged victims of sex assault, is withholding the boy’s name. The boy is currently in the custody of the county social services department.
“Mr. Lovato is not a monster.” Kohn said in his opening statement. “He did what he did based on his life experience and what he thought was best for (the boy.)
Kohn argued that as a single father with limited parenting skills, adoption officials should have never matched Lovato with a boy who had been through 20 foster homes, had undergone psychiatric treatment and suffered from depression and behavior disorders.
The defense attorney also said the boy’s description of the abuse grew more severe each time he retold it to authorities.
“What started out as good intentions, ladies and gentlemen, ends here with you,” Kohn told the jury.
Ringle, however, said the abuse Lovato inflicted on the boy escalated over time.
It first surfaced soon after the adoption when Lovato and the boy lived in a small apartment in Craig. When school officials there began to question bruises they saw on the boy, Ringle said Lovato asked for a job transfer to Colorado Springs.
At first, Lovato would let the boys wounds heal between beatings, but then they became almost daily, Ringle said.
On the day it ended, Ringle said Lovato beat the boy then instructed him to go out to the wood pile and pick a piece of lumber to be hit with. Instead the boy jumped a fence and ran to neighbors.