A Sedalia man has been charged with physically abusing three children.
James L. Hays Jr., 48, of the 300 block of East 14th Street, was arrested Monday afternoon at his residence and was charged Tuesday in Pettis County Circuit Court with three counts of abuse or neglect of a child. He is at the Pettis County Jail on a $1 million bond, cash or surety.
According to a Sedalia Police Department report, an officer took a report July 23 in reference to several allegations of child abuse to three children. Detective Travis St. Cyr began an investigation and a search warrant was served at Hays’ home Monday.
The probable cause statement indicates the children’s grandmother took them to Bothwell Regional Health Center after she noticed large bruises on them and they disclosed to her that a man known to them, identified as Hays, had been physically abusing them. The children are ages 12, 9 and 8.
All three children were interviewed at Child Safe of Central Missouri on July 27, according to the probable cause statement.
The 9-year-old said Hays would “kick them, make them do punishments and drown them” when their mother wasn’t home. The child showed the Child Safe interviewer a bruise and a knot on her leg from Hays kicking her, explaining it happened when she was eating granola bars. She said Hays took the food away, spanked the child a few times, kicked her and made her do push-ups.
The girl said he “yells at them, kicks them a lot, and spanks her” when the children try to get food, court documents state. Hays barely feeds them, she said.
The child also talked about occasions when Hays forced her to eat hot peppers, poured water over her head causing her to be unable to breathe, hit her with a belt, and called her names.
The 8-year-old said Hays makes him do “up-downs, push-ups, jumping jacks and gets spankings with a belt” when he’s in trouble.
All three children told the interviewer about numerous occasions when he would hit, kick or spank them, usually leaving bruises. The 8-year-old recalled a time when the 9-year-old’s legs were hurt so badly she could barely walk, and another time the 12-year-old was shot with green bullets, which detectives later discovered with an airsoft gun during the search warrant.
The children all also talked about Hays locking them in the bathroom and forcing them to sleep in a closet in the bathroom. The 9-year-old said Hays locks the door with a bar on the outside. The 12-year-old drew pictures of the two metal bars she said Hays uses; one is black with “Hays” written on it while the other is red with Neo-Nazi symbols, court documents state.
The 12-year-old said they’ve been sleeping in the bathroom for four years.
Two children said their mother isn’t allowed to do anything about Hays locking the children in the bathroom. The 9-year-old talked about their mother “sneaking food to them while locked in the bathroom. She specifically mentioned peanut butter and jelly.” The 12-year-old said a few times their mother either tried to call someone or get the children out of the bathroom, but Hays wouldn’t let her.
According to court documents, during the search warrant SPD officers found the black metal bar, the red metal bar, belts matching the children’s descriptions, and a long rifle airsoft gun with green plastic BBs loaded inside, all consistent with the children’s disclosures.
The bathroom door didn’t have metal brackets attached, “but it was clear that they were recently removed.” Officers found brackets inside a toolbox that matched up with the holes on the door frame.
Online court documents do not list an attorney for Hays, and a hearing has not been scheduled.