McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 6, 2013

Eufaula man gets prison time for child abuse

By Rachel Petersen
Staff Writer

McALESTER — A Eufaula man has been sentenced to 15 years of prison time for a child abuse conviction.

Billy Jack Russell, 39, was convicted by jury in January of one felony count of child abuse by injury. The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years incarceration in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. On Feb. 27, District Judge Thomas Bartheld confirmed the jury’s decision and sentenced Russell to 15 years.

Russell was charged with the felony in May after beating a 3-year-old boy with a paddle and his hand.

A police affidavit indicates that Russell was attempting to “potty train” the young boy. The child refused to use the toilet and Russell allegedly “got a paddle and started spanking” him, the affidavit states.

Assistant District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan prosecuted the case for the state. “The defendant abused (the boy) on the night of the 30th of April, 2012, causing injury so significant that he went into kidney failure,” Sullivan said after the guilty verdict was announced. “I’m grateful for the jury’s verdict and that (the boy) will get justice.”

In his opening argument during the trial, Sullivan explained that after Russell beat the young boy, he was taken to the emergency room where doctors determined he had severe bruising, dehydration and renal failure. “That means his kidneys were shutting down due to his injuries,” Sullivan said.

Local attorney Brecken Wagner represented Russell in the case.

“I disagree with the jury’s verdict,” Wagner said. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t appeal.”

In his opening argument, Wagner explained to the jury that this case was based on one person’s word versus another person’s word. Wagner said the child’s mother, Kelley Good, would testify that Russell “produced these terrible injuries upon this child.”

Wagner argued that Good was being dishonest about what happened to her son.

“Good ... made a deal with the state,” Wagner said.

Good pleaded no contest on Jan. 11 in Pittsburg County District Court to one felony count of enabling or permitting child abuse by injury. She was fined $550 and judgment and sentencing were deferred for five years.

“She was facing a charge that carried a maximum sentence of life in prison,” Wagner said. “She made a deal and she’s on probation now.”

The first witness called in the trial was Good. She testified that she, Russell and the child had pizza together on the evening her son was injured. The three were at Russell’s home, she testified, and both her and the child became sick. While getting the young boy ready for bed, the child threw up, she said, and she asked Russell to help clean the young boy and get him ready for bed. She said she went outside and vomited and when she came back inside, Russell was spanking the young boy for not using the “potty.”

Good testified that the beating spanned a period of approximately 45 minutes. “He would get him off the potty, spank him,” Good said. “Natural instinct would be to grab him and leave.”

Wagner then asked Good: “But you didn’t follow your natural instinct?”

Good answered: “I’m scared of Billy.”

Good then testified that she eventually “grabbed” her child and some personal items and left the house.

Wagner asked: “Why didn’t you contact the authorities?”

Good answered: “I was scared they would take my son from me.”

Wagner asked: “Was your son bleeding?”

Good answered: “Yes, he was bleeding a little.”

During her testimony, Good explained that she went to a friend’s house before going back to her own home, where she and her son slept. The next day she went to a neighbor’s house and borrowed money, according to her testimony. Then she put gas in her car and went to another friend’s home.

Wagner asked Good if she ever attempted to contact the authorities or take her son to the emergency room. “No,” Good answered. “And I know I should have.”

Good testified that she had been using methamphetamine at the time the incident occurred and that she and Russell may have used the drug together on the day the boy was beaten. She testified she had been addicted to methamphetamine for “years” and that she recently completed a drug rehabilitation treatment program.

Good testified that after leaving the friend’s house the day following the incident, she went to her mother’s house. Good’s mother saw the child’s injuries and called police.

The young boy’s paternal grandmother, Diana Franklin, was in the courtroom during the trial. She told the News-Capital that she was attending the trial for her grandson.

After the guilty verdict was announced, she told the News-Capital that she was extremely surprised by the verdict. She was expecting the jury would say not guilty.

Also testifying at the trial were Oklahoma Department of Human Services case worker Lindsey House and emergency room physician Dr. Norm McAlester. McAlester said the child came into the hospital with severe bruising to his buttocks, back, thighs and arms. He testified that the child had “very deep, severe bruising in multiple stages of healing” and that the child’s injuries were consistent with non-accidental blunt force trauma.

McAlester also testified that the child was having issues with is kidneys due to a lack of food and fluids and due to blunt force injuries.

Warren Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Paul Thomas testified the young boy’s initial medical tests indicated mild kidney failure. Thomas said he put the child on intravenous fluids for a 12-hour period. When the child was checked later, Thomas testified, his kidney failure had become worse. The child was then sent to the St. Francis Children’s Hospital in Tulsa.

A pediatric doctor from St. Francis testified that the child’s kidney function eventually normalized after treatment.

Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@mcalesternews.com.

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