A Missouri man faces charges after allegedly beating and starving his girlfriend's three children, locking them in closets and forcing them to eat shoes.
Police say two girls and a boy, ages 12, 9 and 8, endured horrific abuse for four years at home in Sedalia, KTLA sister station WDAF in Kansas City reported.
James Hays Jr. lived at the home with his girlfriend, his three kids and her three children, according to court documents.
Back on July 23, the aunt of the 12-, 9- and 8-year-olds took the kids to a nearby hospital after noticing they had “large bruises."
The children's mother told WDAF she tried to escape an estimated 30 or 40 times over the years. But last week, she finally was able to knock Hays over and run with her children to a neighbor's house, then get her sister's help.
Investigators interviewed all three kids, and court records detail the brutal abuse they endured.
One child had visible bruising on her legs. A neighbor who didn’t want to be identified said there was a visible footprint on the girl’s shin, and she had badly bruised ribs.
The children told police Hays would often “yell at them, kick them a lot and spank them" for “trying to get something to eat."
On one occasion, a child said Hays forced her to eat hot peppers and poured water over her head so that she “couldn’t breathe.”
The kids also said they were often shoved in bathroom and locked in with “bars” that Hays would “slam down." One child reported that their mother would try to “sneak food to them while locked in the bathroom."
Court records say more than once, the children were made to take “several shoe laces” out of shoes, and Hays would “make them eat parts of the shoes.” Whoever ate “most of a shoe” would get “to stop and eat real breakfast."
Hays is also accused of forcing the kids to do jumping jacks, squats and push-ups, and if he wasn’t satisfied, the kids said he’d “kick, spank and swat with a belt" with “little pointy metal things on it.”
Court records say Hays would also use a “spatula and hanger” to beat them. The abuse often leading to “bruises” and “bleeding."
Police searched the house Monday, finding many of the conditions the kids described, including metal brackets and bars near the doors. Hays was arrested and now faces three counts of felony child abuse, WDAF reported.
The children are staying with extended family members.
Hays is being held on $1 million bond. He has extensive criminal history, including a past partner who filed a restraining order against him.