PORT ANGELES, Wash. - A Sequim father is on trial, accused of disfiguring his children in a painful ritual. He says it was all part of family bonding, but prosecutors call it family “branding.”
Mark Seamands calls himself a devoted father, and as such, he wanted a way to demonstrate that devotion to his three children. So, on Thanksgiving Day of 2008 he asked a friend, Denny Secord, to use a homemade branding iron to burn a family crest into his skin. It's something he’d been planning for months.
"I just heated it up and touched it to him and took it off," said Secord as he testified in court Wednesday. "I said, ‘Jeez did that hurt?’ He said, 'No, not at all.'”
Seacord says a short time later Seamands’ three kids showed up and excitedly asked to be branded themselves. Seamands admits he then took a propane torch, heated the iron up and branded Seamands' 13-year-old son’s chest and 15-year-old son’s arm with “SK” for "Seamands Kids."
A new family tradition had begun -- one the kids say they’re proud of. They don't think their dad did anything wrong.
"It’s different than a tattoo. It obviously means something to me and my family that's personal," said one of the boys. KING 5 is not indentifying them because they are minors.
This was all happening in the midst of a divorce between Seamands and his childrens’ mother – who Seamands says gave her consent for the brandings.
"I believe this amplified the fact that I would be there for them, through anything," testified Seamands.
But as opposed to a case of “father knows best", prosecutors say it plays more like “daddy dearest.” Seamands is charged with second-degree assault for “permanently disfiguring" his children.
Despite the teens’ support for their father, the law doesn’t allow them to determine whether they were assaulted because they're minors. It is now up to a jury to decide when a father’s love goes too far.
The father also branded his daughter, but she is 18 and there are no charges pending with her because she’s an adult.
Jury deliberations begin Thursday morning.