A military couple was arrested at a Georgia naval base Sunday after the man reportedly showed police footage of his wife dousing their then-7-month-old son with water and choking him with a scarf.
Jonathan Xavier Harrell, 24, and Latoya Denise Harrell, 23, were charged with first-degree cruelty to children after police responded to their home amid reports of a domestic disturbance. Though law enforcement separated the pair following a verbal dispute, a Camden County officer claimed Jonathan showed them a video of his wife abusing their son, according to the Tribune & Georgian.
Citing police, The Florida Times-Union reported that the video showed the couple arguing as Latoya empties an entire water bottle on their baby, who begins to cough and gag when water enters his open mouth. An arrest report stated that she harmed the child to elicit a response from her husband, who “does not appear to be alarmed or worried.”
The mother was also filmed tying a scarf around the infant’s neck “in a noose-type fashion” before lifting the scarf, leaving him to dangle in the air, according to the report. She is then seen dropping the baby on the bed and leaving the room; the scarf reportedly remained tied around his neck as the father keeps filming.
“On the video, the object is so tight that the infant’s eyes can be visible as bulging and watering,” the report alleged. “Again, Mr. Harrell does not stop the act nor does he attempt to render aid, yet continues to record.”
The Georgian reported that three children were at the Camden County home when officers arrived Sunday. Describing the residence as “substandard and unhealthy,” police claimed every door in the home was knocked off the hinges, there were flies and roaches in the kitchen, the kitchen reeked of decomposing food, and the home was littered with broken glass and diapers.
Deputies who questioned Jonathan asked why he filmed the abuse. He allegedly explained that he wanted to get his wife in trouble but not lose his children, as the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) had already investigated them. He claimed the video was shot six months earlier but later admitted the video was two months old, according to the newspaper.
“Mr. Harrell stated that he knows his wife has mental health issues and is not (taking) her medication. I asked him if that is justification for not reporting the crime to which he stated no,” police wrote.
The mother allegedly claimed she was only trying to pick up her son and wasn’t trying to choke him. The report said she declined to acknowledge the water incident.
DFCS has custody of the children as a criminal investigation continues. The Harrells remain jailed as bail has not yet been set.
[Featured Image: Jonathan Harrell, Latoya Denise Harrell/Camden County Sheriff’s Office]