Lynda Michel and Gregory Wilson, a Minnesota couple, are accused of dropping off a 5-year-old boy in the woods as punishment for wetting himself.
Michel, 42, and Wilson, 32, were charged Friday with child neglect. The young boy was found on Aug. 28 walking along a highway south of St. Peter in Minnesota. Authorities say the boy is Wilson’s biological son and that Michel lives with him and the child.
Here’s what you need to know about Michel and Wilson:
1. The Child Was Found By a Motorist Walking Down the Highway, Wet From the Rain & Crying
According to Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the 5-year-old boy was spotted by a motorist walking along a highway. He was soaking wet from the rain and crying when he was found. He told police that he had been dropped off by his “mom and dad” because he had been “naughty.”
Michel and Wilson told authorities that they had turned around after driving a short distance away, but the boy was already gone. “Police found the couple searching for the child, but the couple hadn’t called to report him missing,” Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports.
2. Several Bruises Were Found on the Boy’s Buttocks, Back & Hips, According to Authorities
Investigators report that several “black and blue and red bruises” were found on the boy’s back, buttocks and hips after he was found walking along the highway alone.
Wilson told investigators that he regularly spanked and punished the child with an open hand, according to Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The boy was taken into protective custody and is currently in foster care, according to court documents.
3. A Third Man, Who Was in the Vehicle at the Time, Pleaded With The Couple to Not Leave the Boy Behind
There was also another man reportedly in the car with Michel and Wilson when they dropped the child off. The man told police that he tried to talk the couple out of leaving the boy near the woods.
Wilson also faces charges of gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child and misdemeanor domestic assault for the bruises found on the boy. Court documents do not a list an attorney for either Michel or Wilson at this time.
4. Child Abuse Has Risen Dramatically in Minnesota Over The Last Few Years
According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, close to 40,000 children were suspected of being abused or neglected in Minnesota in 2016, a 25 percent increase from 2015.
“Of the more than 39,500 children who were the subject of suspected abuse, 16,400 were part of child maltreatment investigations — a 43 percent increase from 2015,” the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports.
The report didn’t detail what was behind the increase in child abuse cases, but said it was likely due to in part to “a growing opioid crisis” and an increased awareness about child abuse, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
5. Many Lawmakers Are Pushing For a Child Abuse Registry to Help Track Cases of Abuse
For decades, lawmakers across the U.S. have been discussed creating a national child abuse registry, but it has consistently been stalled due to questions about funding, state participation and restrictions under current law.
After an 11-year-old girl was beaten to death in Norfolk, Virginia, lawmakers were working on a way to better track abuse history when families move across state lines. Heaven Watkins was brutally beaten to death by her mother and mother’s boyfriend, and an investigation by 13 News Now showed her family had a history with child protection in Minnesota.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D, VA-03) is pushing Congress to overhaul the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). He hopes to include a tracking system for child abuse cases, so there would be a concrete way for CPS in one state to find out what happened in other states.
Although Scott is pushing for change from Virginia, his efforts, if successful, would help track child abuse cases across the country, and hopefully help stop abuse cases from falling through the cracks due to something as simple as moving to a new state.