A church pastor and his twin brother surrendered Tuesday to face
they nearly beat to death an 11-year-old boy for cheating during his Bible studies.
Joshua Thompson, a pastor at Capitol City Baptist Church in Austin,
and his brother, Caleb
Thompson, 22, are charged with injury to a child. Both men face up to life in prison if convicted.
According to police, Joshua Thompson beat Louie Guerrero with
a stick for an hour on July 3
while his brother held him down. The boy remains hospitalized in fair condition at Brackenridge
Children'sHospital. Arrest warrants were issued Monday, and the men turned themselves in
to the Travis County jail Tuesday afternoon. Austin Police Detective Doug Havens said the boy
told police that Joshua Thompson, who runs services for the church's Spanish-speaking members,
accused him of cheating in memorizing Bible verses.
In the arrest affidavit, police said Joshua Thompson whipped the
boy with a stick while his brother
held the boy's face down. The boy told police he was allowed a bathroom break during the beating.
The boy's mother said her son was dropped off at home and that
Joshua Thompson told the family
he was unable to "break" the boy and that he should be beaten for another two hours.
The family said they didn't realize the severity of what had happened
to their son until after the
Thompsons left, and they immediately called police. Police said the boy's back was a giant swath
of red, peppered with cuts and blood spots. A nurse told investigators the boy's injuries caused his
kidneys to fail and that he needed a blood transfusion to live.
Havens said police tried to interview the Thompsons last week,
but both men refused to answer
questions. The victim was checked into intensive care, and warrants weren't issued until after police
could interview him again on Monday. The Thompsons' attorney, Jerald Finney, said Monday his
clients "are two very responsible young men. Anybody can make these allegations. That's what
the criminal justice system is for - to sort out truth from fiction." Finney did not immediately
return phone calls to his office Tuesday. Police said the men have no prior criminal records.
At the church, an orange brick building in a residential neighborhood,
the doors were locked Tuesday,
and no one answered the phone. The church sign says it is an "independent fundamental" congregation.
Its Yellow Pages ad describes it as an "Old Fashion Church."
The Thompsons' father, Hank Thompson, is pastor of the church
and leads the main congregation,
which has about 300 members. Havens said the boy's family indicated harsh and severe discipline is
often used in the Spanish-speaking segment of the church.
Havens said the victim told police that in the past he had been
spanked or forced to maintain a push-up
position for an extended period. He had never before been hit with "the rod," as church members referred
to the stick. The boy also told police he had seen other children physically disciplined, Havens said.
So far, however, no other victims have come forward.
"The indication of the family is many members of the church approve
of this kind of thing.
This would tend to reduce the odds that others will come forward," Havens said.
Bobby Taylor, an attorney for the victim's family, accused the
church of teaching physical punishment
as part of its doctrine. He said other members have called his office alleging abuses. "These people
thought this is the way it's supposed to be because that's what they were taught," Taylor said.
"But they were shocked by the severity of what happened here."