A Lowell-area couple has been charged with 16 felonies based on allegations by a 14-year-old boy who told police he ran away from home to escape beatings with a horsewhip and belt, confinement in a dog cage and threats with knives and a gun.
Tina Louise Graham, 40, and Vernon D. Widner, 55, of the 12700 block of West 162nd Avenue, are charged with abusing the boy for more than two years at their home. The boy described being stripped naked and physically abused by Graham and Widner, whom he described as his mother’s fiance. Police had been involved with the victim since September 2010 regarding him running away from home because of alleged abuse, and the Indiana Department of Child Services was contacted. In March, the boy met with police and detailed the allegations.
The mother withdrew the child from Lowell Middle School in January and he wasn’t being home-schooled. The boy told police Detective Lawrence Thurmond that he ran away from home even more when he no longer had school as a way to be away from his abusive home life, the probable cause affidavit states.
The mother enrolled him in a treatment program at Northwest Community Hospital for a month ending in January.
The boy said the couple locked him inside a dog kennel, forced him to take extremely hot showers and allowed him one meal a day. He was abused with a whip, threatened with having his testicles cut off and had a loaded gun placed to his cheek, the probable cause affidavit states.
Once, when the boy was hiding in a car in his grandfather’s pole barn in Lowell, Widner allegedly jumped on top of him, held him down with his arm around his neck, and choked him until his body started to go numb and he couldn’t breathe.
The boy told police his mother and his juvenile sister would hold him down during the beatings with a horsewhip, which occurred between August and November 2010.
The boy also described being locked in a dog kennel overnight beginning in October 2010 through January 2011. The child was placed in foster care in March.
Graham is free on $5,000 cash bond. Widner is being held on $70,000 bail, or $7,000 cash.
Graham and Widner were charged with criminal confinement, intimidation, battery, neglect of a dependent and strangulation. The charges are punishable by a maximum 20-year sentence.