Guilty verdict in child abuse case

Published 6:29 pm Thursday, May 16, 2013

Warren Pettiford

Warren Pettiford


A Washington man accused of beating his 5-year-old stepson with an electrical cord was found guilty of felonious child abuse by a Beaufort County Superior Court jury Wednesday.

District Attorney Seth Edwards called several state’s witnesses to the stand Wednesday to testify that the actions of Warren Ronald Pettiford on Sept. 15, 2011, qualify as felonious child abuse. The defense called no witnesses.

On the day in question, Washington Police and Child Protective Services were called to Eastern Elementary School in reference to suspected child abuse. According to a school guidance counselor, the boy was walking with a limp and had multiple bruises and welts, as well as several lacerations on his back and buttocks. Photos taken on the day of the incident were submitted as evidence and shown to the jury.

Detectives Ron Black and Dean Watson testified that Pettiford was cooperative throughout the investigation, freely admitting he had disciplined his son and it had gone too far. Pettiford, during a videotaped interview with police detectives, told them the incident was spurred by a letter sent home from Eastern Elementary saying the boy was disrespecting his teachers.

During the defense’s closing arguments, attorney Tyrell Clemons made the case that his client was not guilty, simply because he had no intention of inflicting “great pain and suffering” on the boy, a requirement of felonious child abuse. “There is no doubt at all that this man loved his stepson … He took care of him as if he was his own,” Clemons said.

Clemons invoked King Solomon, pointing out that scripture requires discipline: “If you don’t punish your children, you don’t love them. You do love them, you correct them … (Pettiford) was trying to do what he thought was right. He just took it too far.”

Nurse practitioner Ann Parsons, an expert witness currently in the employ of Greenville’s child advocacy center, Teddy Bear, said her examination of the victim revealed injuries both new and old — scars and wounds in the process of healing — and testified that the abuse of the boy was not a one-time occurrence, as offered by the defense.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. In the pictures that you saw this morning — is that true statement?” Edwards asked the jury in the state’s closing argument. At one point he held up several pictures of the boy’s wounds, asking, “What about that looks like an accident? What about that looks like a mistake?”

Superior Court Judge Russell Duke Jr. sentenced Pettiford to 29 to 44 months in prison. Thursday, Pettiford, this time in orange jumpsuit and chains, was brought back to court to resolve another matter: a DWI received on May 15, 2012. Pettiford blew a .17, more than double the legal limit. He was sentenced to 60 days to run concurrently with the longer sentence.