By Rachel Petersen
A Pittsburg County District Court jury deliberated for about an hour and a half Friday before delivering a guilty verdict after the conclusion of a trial for a Eufaula man accused of child abuse.
Billy Jack Russell, 39, was convicted 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.
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, Sullivan explained that after Russell beat the young boy, he was eventually 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 the Russell in the case. “I disagree with the jury’s verdict,” Wagner said. “I see no reason why we wouldn’t appeal.”
Wagner first spoke to the jury in his opening argument. He 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 is a mentally ill, meth addict that 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 trial began on Thursday and the first witness called in the trial was Good.
Good 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. Good said that both her and the child became sick, and while getting the young boy ready for bed, the child threw up. She said she asked Russell to help clean the young boy and get him ready for bed. She said she went outside and vomited. She testified that when she came back inside, Russell was spanking the young boy for not using the “potty.”
Good testified that the beating spanned over 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 friends 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 actively using methamphetamine at the time the incident occurred. She testified that she and Russell may have used methamphetamine together on the day the boy was beaten. She testified that 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 over to her mother’s house. Good’s mother saw the child’s injuries and called the police.
When Good left the stand, she walked through the courtroom Thursday and craned her head to the left, where her eyes fell upon her son’s paternal grandparents, Diana and Terry Franklin. Good furrowed her brows and scrunched her nose in their direction, and then left the courtroom.
The young boy’s paternal grandmother later told the News-Capital that she was attending the trial for her grandson. “I saw that dirty look she gave me. I am just here for my grandbaby,” she said. On Friday, after the guilty verdict was announced, Diana Franklin told the News-Capital that she was extremely surprised by the verdict. She was expecting the jury would say not guilty.
During the trial, Oklahoma Department of Human Services case worker Lindsey House testified that she saw the child, and viewed his injuries, on the night of May 2. She took photos of the child’s injuries and these nine photos were admitted into evidence during the trial.
House testified that she determined the child needed immediate medical attention.
Emergency room physician Dr. Norm McAlester testified that the child came into the ER 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 kidney’s due to a lack of food and fluids and due tot he blunt force injuries he sustained.
Warren Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Paul Thomas testified that 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.
District 18 Judge Thomas Bartheld presided over Russell’s trial.
Russell is scheduled for formal sentencing at 9 a.m. on Feb. 27.
Contact Rachel Petersen at email@example.com.
For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone.