Douglasville Police Department investigators say a local mom and her girlfriend put a 6-year-old boy in a small dog cage for hours, poured syrup and cat litter on him and made him hold a brick over his head.
The women allegedly told officials they were simply disciplining the child.
At a bond hearing in Douglas County Magistrate Court on Thursday, Crystal Jean Hostetter, 24, was charged with felony cruelty to children. Hostetter’s girlfriend, 30-year-old Sarah Elizabeth McClain also of Douglasville was charged with cruelty to children (party to the crime) and reckless conduct and cruelty to children. According to the warrant, McClain made the child hold a brick over his head for 15 minutes.
Hostetter allegedly poured syrup on the child’s hands and feet, then covering them with cat litter. The couple apparently knew the boy had psychological issues and doesn’t like to be sticky. While inside the cage, the child allegedly began screaming, “Please don’t kill me.”
The incident reportedly occurred Saturday at the couple’s home on Hagin Street. The punishment apparently lasted for two hours.
Douglasville Police Sgt. Todd Garner said the wire dog cage wasn’t much longer than a normal-size cat litter box. As far as conditions in the home, the couple has three cats and there were apparently a lot of fleas.
Garner told Magistrate Judge Barbara Caldwell during Thursday’s hearing that the defendants, who are from Pennsylvania, moved to Douglasville on March 1. The Division of Family and Children Services is looking into whether there have been reports in Pennsylvania of similar punishments.
“This extreme form of discipline was conducted on Saturday evening where witnesses saw this taking place and notified the school on Monday that they thought this was extreme and actually heard the child screaming… as they were pouring syrup on him and put him in the dog cage,” Garner said.
As this was going on, the child also reportedly asked, “Do you all love me?”
Hostetter and McClain apparently admitted to the alleged crimes after a DFCS employee came to their residence Monday evening.
“They were removed from the home so their child could stay there and be able to go to school the next day,” Garner said.
The child was left in the care of a male adult who was in the home.
“DFCS then had Ms. Hostetter come up Tuesday to the office,” Garner said. “They interviewed her again. She gave the same information. She explained to them that this total discipline was outside and was approximately two hours. Then I spoke to her in a voluntary interview.”
Hostetter reportedly told him that McClain issued punishment involving the brick while she wasn’t present.
“She didn’t seem to have an issue with it, but it was done when she was not there some time in the previous weeks leading up to this,” Garner said.
Hostetter told police that she and McClain have been in a relationship for three years.
“This child already has mental issues that they are aware of,” Garner said. “He has been hospitalized, I believe, according to Ms. Hostetter, for approximately two weeks total at the beginning of this year up in Pennsylvania. He’s supposed to be on three different medications that she has not filled or given him. In our conversation, I asked her, ‘You just think that you know more than the doctors?’ She said yes.”
Hostetter is also not taking the child to therapy, according to reports.
“He acts out based on the things that they have diagnosed him with and she doesn’t like that so she has issued these forms of punishment,” Garner said. “She has also gone to the point of taking his bed out and making him sleep on the floor because he slept on the floor one night. So she said, ‘If you don’t like your bed, you cannot have it,’ and put it in the garage as well.”
He didn’t learn about the cat litter being used until he talked to the son.
“He kept mentioning being covered in cat litter,” Garner said.
When he went back and asked Hostetter about the cat litter, she reportedly told him she forgot about it.
“He told me he doesn’t like peanut butter,” Garner said. “He doesn’t like jelly. He doesn’t like anything that’s sticky. It just bothers him and the mother knows this. She said that’s why they coated his hands and feet with syrup and put cat litter on him because as she said, ‘I knew it would bother him.’”
Caldwell denied bond for both women, meaning the two will stay in their own cages — at the Douglas County Jail. Caldwell deemed that both are likely to flee and pose a danger to the victim.
“I cannot even imagine doing that to a child that has issues already and heaven only knows what has happened that no one else knows about,” she said.
Garner said after the hearing that the child had missed a lot of school since March and that the couple didn’t really have a good reason for moving to Georgia except to say they wanted to “get a new start.”
“No jobs, no real family ties or anything down here, so it makes you wonder why they up and just left from Pennsylvania all of a sudden,” he said. “There is obviously some concerns that maybe there was something ongoing up there that we’re just not aware of, so that’s still being looked into as well.”