Father films mother torturing 7-month-old son, deputies say

Deputies: Couple arrested at Kings Bay Naval Base after mother chokes baby

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor

KINGS BAY, Ga. - A case of child abuse in the housing section of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay led to the arrest of a husband and wife after Camden County Sheriff's Office deputies saw a video the man took of the woman torturing a 7-month-old boy, investigators said.

Latoya Harrell, 23, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Harrell, 24, are charged with first-degree child cruelty.

The baby and two other children in the home were taken into custody by the Division of Family and Children Services.

According to the arrest report, deputies were called to the Harrells' home in base housing after a reported domestic incident. 

Deputies said Jonathan Harrell told them he and his wife had gotten into an argument but it did not turn physical, but during the interview, investigators learned he had video of his wife abusing their 7-month-old son.

According to the report, Jonathan Harrell filmed his wife when she poured a full bottle of water on their baby, who was lying on a bed. “This appeared to be done by Mrs. Harrell in an attempt to provoke Mr. Harrell,” the report said.

The boy begins to sputter, cough and gag in the video, but instead of helping the baby, Jonathan Harrell continues to film the incident on his phone, deputies said.

Latoya Harrell then grabs “a belt or scarf typed object” and ties a noose around the baby's neck, pulling him into the air and dangling him by his neck over the bed, according to the report. Deputies said the baby's eyes could be seen bulging and watering in the video because of the object around his neck.

After Latoya Harrell drops the baby back on the bed and walks out, Jonathan Harrell follows her, still filming, and the baby is left alone in the room “after these life-threatening events,” deputies wrote in the report.

Jonathan Harrell told deputies his wife has mental health issues and is not taking her medication, but he admitted that was not a good reason not to report the crime, deputies said.

The family has been investigated by DFCS before, and Harrell indicated that was one reason he filmed the incident.

Deputies said when they went into the home they found large holes in the walls, doors that appeared to have been kicked off their hinges, dirty diapers strewn throughout the house, busted glass on the floor, rotting food in the trash, and flies and roaches in the kitchen.

"It’s kind of scary to believe in what area we're at -- you think that we're in a great place that nothing like that happens, but it just shows that no matter where you are, anything can happen," neighbor Mitzi Clem said.

Kings Bay officials said Jonathan Harrell was transferred to the base in December 2017 and is a machinist mate who works in the administration building. His wife is not with the Navy. Spokesman Chris Tucker said the Navy has not taken action against Harrell pending the outcome of the civilian legal process.

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