Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dad with "split custody" on trial for abusing 8-year-old daughters (Moulton, Tennessee)

Dad is identified as MITCHELL BRELAND.

Girls testify in ex-officer’s abuse trial

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:02 am | Updated: 7:40 am, Thu Jun 13, 2013.

By Meredith Qualls For the TimesDaily

MOULTON — The 8-year-old twin daughters of former Moulton police officer Mitchell Breland appeared oblivious to the impact of the moment as they testified Wednesday in the child-abuse trial of their father.

In opening-day testimony, each girl told jurors they were whipped with a belt as punishment for smoking a cigarette, 12 strikes total, one for each year before the legal smoking age. Both were 7 at the time of the Aug. 10 incident.

Breland, 28, who sat stoically as the girls testified in Lawrence County Circuit Court, is accused of two counts of torture, willful abuse of a child under 18.

Both his daughters said they cried a little, “but not for very long,” and did not see bruising until later in the day when they undressed to shower.

Breland and his ex-wife, Jaime DeMoss Bradfield, have split custody of the twins.

When the girls were back in Bradfield’s care the next day, they were taken to Parkway Medical Center, where they were evaluated for dark purple bruising that extended from the lower back to the knee, according to Bradfield’s testimony. There, the incident was reported to the Department of Human Resources.

Defense attorney Brian White said in opening statements that the girls were punished by Breland for stealing cigarettes from a neighbor’s porch and smoking them.

About 15 minutes after the punishment, the girls appeared before their neighbor to apologize, according to the defense.

Text messages between the parents of the children allegedly showed that Breland informed Bradfield that he had caught them smoking and was going to “beat their (expletive).” The mother replied, “We grounding them?” and in a separate message told Breland, “Don’t beat them too hard lol.”

Breland and Bradfield were married when the twins were born, but they separated when the children were 14 months old.

In a later message, Bradfield reprimanded Breland for spanking the girls so hard. He expressed remorse and responded that it would not happen again, according to prosecutors. Bradfield also inquired of the girls’ condition after the spanking, asking, “How are our little smokers?”

Human resources agents from Morgan and Cullman counties both testified that, judging from the photos, the bruises were consistent with child abuse.

Stacy Thiot, a former physician’s assistant at Parkway Medical Center, observed the twins and evaluated the bruises at the time of the incident. In her testimony, she said the girls were playful.

“They didn’t appear to be getting down and off the (physician’s) table in a lot of pain,” she said.

After evaluating the leg bruises, Thiot did not take blood samples or undress the girls to look for additional bruising, the procedure outlined in the Atlas of Emergency Medicine.

On Aug. 28, the children were taken to Cramer Children’s Center in Florence, where they were interviewed by Monica Haddock, director of forensics.

In a video of the interview, shown in court by the prosecution, one child answered, “I forgot” to several questions regarding the incident and later said, “I feel super scared” of her father. In court, defense attorney White asked the girl if she wanted to continue living with both parents on an alternating basis. “Yes,” she said.

Breland was arrested after an investigation by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation concluded the photos and text messages between the parents were consistent with child abuse.

He was with the Moulton Police Department for more than a year when he was placed on administrative leave with pay and later terminated after charges were filed.

The trial will continue at 9:30 a.m. today.