Police ask to detain stepfather accused in child abuse case

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Police ask to detain stepfather accused in child abuse case

Police officers in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang, on Sunday requested a pretrial detention warrant for a 35-year-old man on charges that he committed extensive physical abuse of his 9-year-old stepdaughter over a three-year period.
The gruesome abuse case has shocked the nation since police released the first details of their investigation last week. Changnyeong police said they have asked prosecutors to submit the warrant application to a court. If prosecutors approve soon enough, a court could review the request as early as Monday to decide whether to keep the dad locked up while investigative authorities probe his case.
The suspect faces charges of abusing the victim since 2017 by starving her or giving her only a single meal per day, choking her with a metal chain and scorching her fingers on a heated frying pan, police said.
Police said the stepfather admitted to assaulting the girl, apologized and asked for leniency during a recent round of questioning, but denied abusing her by any serious methods raised by the 9-year-old victim, who is now in a child welfare center. Police did not specify to what extent of the abuse he admitted to.
Officers on the case said they’ve roughly figured out the suspect’s motive for the alleged beatings, but did not elaborate on what they were or whether the suspect had personally opened up about them.
The investigation into the stepfather was stalemated during the past couple days, officers said Sunday, because the suspect had physically harmed himself following a court order demanding that his three children — the victim's step-siblings — be temporarily sent to a child welfare facility as well.
Police have yet to summon the stepfather’s 27-year-old wife, who is the birth mother of the victim, for questioning. The woman has complained about “mental pain” and is now hospitalized in South Gyeongsang for treatment, according to officers. Police said the mother submitted medical certificates indicating she’s schizophrenic.
Officers believe the mother was an accomplice and are planning to question her by the end of this month. The victim’s three step-siblings were all born to the two suspects.
The child abuse case was first made public by Changnyeong police on June 8, days after the 9-year-old girl ran away from home on May 29.
A passerby saw the victim wandering down a road at about 6:20 p.m. that day with severe bruises on her face and bloody marks on her head, police said. Noticing that the girl was in her pajamas and wearing a pair of adult slippers, the passerby assumed she was escaping domestic violence, and called the 112 police number.
The girl was sent to a nearby hospital for medical treatment, where police say she gained 5 kilograms (11 pounds) in less than two weeks, going from 25 to 30 kilograms. She was discharged from the hospital in healthy condition on June 11, and subsequently sent to the child welfare facility.
BY HWANG SUN-YOON, LEE SUNG-EUN   [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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