MURRIETA – A Murrieta man and his live-in girlfriend, who are accused of severely abusing his 5-year-old son, were charged today with torture and cruelty to a child resulting in great bodily injury.
Benjamin Matthew Whitten, 33, and Jeryn Christine Johnson, 25, were arrested Tuesday following an investigation by Murrieta police into the injuries to his biological son, who is on life support at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.
The two are slated to make their initial joint court appearance this afternoon at the Southwest Justice Center.
Whitten is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta. Johnson is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad, paramedics were summoned about 10 a.m. Tuesday to 24001 Verdun Lane, near Mountain Pride Park, regarding a child in medical distress.
Conrad said the boy was suffering from “severe injuries – the nature of which weren’t disclosed – that “required immediate medical attention.”
After the child was examined at a Temecula Valley trauma center, the decision was made to airlift him to the pediatric hospital for specialized care. The tot remains in grave condition, according to Conrad.
Detectives arrested the pair after questioning them at length and searching their house, where Conrad described the living conditions as “extremely unsanitary.” He said 11 dogs, four cats and two fish were impounded by animal control officers.
Neither Whitten or Johnson has any record of prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.