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December 15, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Seattle man accused of forcing girlfriend's son to panhandle

A homeless Seattle man with a long criminal history is facing felony charges after authorities say he beat his girlfriend’s children and forced the eldest of them to panhandle.

Vincent Pierce, 25, was charged with second-degree child assault-domestic violence, and two counts of third-degree child assault-domestic violence in King County Superior Court. He is being held in lieu of $300,000 bail.

According to Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carol Spoor, Seattle police learned of Pierce on Dec. 4  after the man dialed 911 to report that his girlfriend’s eldest child, a 10-year-old boy, was missing. Pierce told police that the child had gone out to play 90 minutes earlier and had never returned, charges said.

Later that night the child returned. When questioned by police, the boy told officers that Pierce had sent him to the Space Needle to panhandle, charges allege.  The boy said that he was outside for more than six hours begging for change and had not eaten all day, Spoor wrote.

The boy was taken into foster care and he told a social worker that Pierce had beaten him three weeks earlier, according to charges. Doctors who evaluated the boy found what appeared to be cigarette burns on his feet and what appeared to be healing broken bones, charges said.

Police returned to the residence to check on the welfare of the boy’s 5-year-old sister. They found that the girl had two black eyes and bruises on her forehead, according to charges. The girl appeared to be “grossly dehydrated and underweight,” Spoor wrote.

Both children told authorities that Pierce had beaten both of them after they stole food, according to the charges.

Officers talked to the mother of the two children and she said that she had been dating Price for two years. She said that Pierce used a belt to discipline her two children, sometimes hitting the children more than 30 times for more than an hour, charges said. Police said that she called it a “common practice” and described it as child abuse. She added that when she tried to intervene he attacked her, the charges allege.

The mother said that she’s afraid of Pierce.

Pierce’s mother told police that the man was homeless and has been living in a tent.

Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, said that the agency had been trying to keep tabs on the family after receiving several reports from people voicing concerns about the children being homeless. CPS investigators never found any indication of abuse in the family.

“Being homeless does not constitute child abuse. If we have concerns about exposure [to the outside temperatures] or not eating ther’s more we can do,” Hill said.

The family lived in Nickelsville, a Seattle homeless camp, last year and have lived homeless in other parts of King County in recent months, Hill said. CPS investigators do not believe the 10-year-old boy was enrolled in school.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: child assault, domestic violence, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

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