First indictments issued under Delaware’s new child abuse law

A Newark couple accused of locking their 12-year-old son in his room for three months are the first in the state to face charges under Delaware’s new child abuse statute.

Last September, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed SB 234 into law, officially creating the crime of Child Abuse in Delaware.  Now, 42-year-old Robert Hohn and 40-year-old Shannon Watterson are the first to face charges under the new law.

Police say Hohn and Watterson imprisoned their 12 year old son in his bedroom for three months and failed to feed him regularly.  They say the boy’s medical care was also neglected and he was not enrolled in any educational program.  Hohn and Watterson were arrested on November 28, 2012, after the boy escaped his room and notified a neighbor who called police.  

Police say the boy was found to be 20 pounds underweight for a child his age when he was taken to the hospital for medical care.  They say he was only allowed to leave the room to use the bathroom.  The window to his room was screwed shut and the door handle was installed backwards.  The only furniture in the room was a lamp without a lampshade.

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“Too many children are victimized by abuse and neglect, often at the hands of those who are responsible for their care,” said Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.  “Fortunately, our new child abuse statute is a powerful tool that we have used in this case and will continue to use to hold offenders accountable and better protect kids.”  

Biden’s office helped lead the effort to get the child abuse statute passed in the General Assembly along with state Senator Patricia Blevins and state Representative Rebecca Walker.  

As for Hohn and Watterson, they’ve been behind bars on $282,500 cash bail since their arrest last fall.  In addition to the child abuse charges, they’re also facing a host of other counts including endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly committing the abuse in front of three other children who were living in their home.

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