24 Oct 2010

Prosecutors: Houston parents used bamboo sticks to beat toddler

The Houston Chronicle - April 7, 2009

Sister says couple also poked the boy with chopsticks

by Dale Lezon | Houston Chronicle

Both parents of a 3-year-old southwest Harris County boy beat himwith bamboo sticks and poked his feet with chopsticks in a violent attempt to remove demons from his body, a prosecutor said today in a court hearing.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Darin Darby, citing a witness statement from the boy's 6-year-old sister, today presented new details of the attack to state District Judge Debbie Mantooth Stricklin in the case against Phung Tran, 36.

She and her husband, Jacky Tran, 35, are charged with injury to a child with serious bodily injury, a first-degree felony. He was arrested at the scene, but his wife was charged Monday.

Both face up to life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say the parents, devout Buddhists and vegetarians,believed demons entered the boy through meat he ate.

Medics flew the boy to the hospital, where he was being treated for multiple skull fractures. Officials said he is expected to survive.

The Trans remain in Harris County jail on $100,000 bond each. Phung Tran's attorney, Charles Brown said he wanted a psychiatric evaluation done soon. At Monday's hearing, she shuffled through the courtroom with her eyes closed.

Sheriff's deputies visited the Lone Dove Court home after 7 p.m. Saturday after a security alarm sounded.

When they arrived, all the windows were open and Buddhist chants were blaring from within. Through an upstairs window, Jacky Tran could be seen repeatedly punching down with his fist, prosecutors said.

During a lull in the loud music, deputies heard a child screaming. Inside, they found the naked, battered, barely conscious boy in his mother's arms in the bathtub.

Sunday night, Tran told tearful relatives who visited him in jail that he had not hit the toddler, but had simply knocked the demon out of him.

The beating left the little boy unresponsive, his head maroon from bruising, his eyes nearly swollen shut.

Child Protective Services has placed the couple's older daughter in foster care and planned to ask a judge for custody.

The Transare scheduled to appear in court again May 14.

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