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State v. Hansen

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

December 23, 2014

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
PETER D. HANSEN, Appellant

Page 782

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY. Honorable J. Dan Conklin, Judge.

OPINION

Page 783

RICHARD B. TEITELMAN, Judge.

Peter Hansen was convicted of two counts of felony child abuse pursuant to section 568.060[1] for inflicting " cruel and inhuman punishment" upon his 14-year-old son by confining him in a small bathroom and by restricting food.[2] The court sentenced Hansen to concurrent terms of three years imprisonment but suspended the execution of the sentence and ordered 100 days of shock incarceration.

Hansen raises two points on appeal. He argues tat the trial court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal because there was insufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly inflicted cruel and inhuman punishment upon his son by restricting his son's food or by confining him in the bathroom. The judgment is affirmed.

Facts

In November 2009, Hansen and his family were living at a church in Springfield, Missouri. Police officers and an investigator went to the church to investigate a child abuse hotline call regarding Hansen's son and daughter. When the officers arrived, Hansen's wife indicated that Hansen and their son were not home. The officers found Hansen's son in the bathroom of an adjacent, locked building. One of the officers described the conditions as " worse than what you would typically find in a prison-type environment [because] there was no light and it was extremely cold in

Page 784

the building [Hansen's son] was staying in." The children were taken into protective custody.

Hansen returned home and was questioned. Hansen told the investigators that he disciplined his son and his daughter by confining them in the bathroom and by restricting food.

When Hansen imposed food restrictions, he allowed his son to eat approximately a cup of grain for breakfast and a cup of rice and vegetables for dinner. The food restriction periods ranged from two days to as long as two weeks. Hansen occasionally withheld dinner, meaning that on those days, his son's entire food ration for the day consisted of a cup of grain for breakfast. On a few occasions, Hansen restricted all food. Hansen instructed his son not to tell anyone about these disciplinary measures.

When Hansen punished his son by confinement, Hansen required his son to stay in a bathroom that measured approximately four feet by five feet. Hansen's son testified that his father confined him in the bathroom " five or six" times and that his most recent period of confinement lasted " one and a half to two weeks." Hansen told investigators that the bathroom was " like a hole for a 14 year old, and I'm okay with that." [3] Hansen testified that the bathroom was too small for his son to lie down in and that he removed the light switch from the bathroom so that his son would not draw attention by turning the lights off and on. While in " the hole," Hansen's son was allowed to have a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a Bible, a notebook, eating utensils, and a few clothes. He was required to stay in the bathroom " pretty much all day and night" but was allowed outside for 15 to 30 minutes to play. A police officer testified that the building where the bathroom was located was very cool and that the thermostat " was programmed to cool down to 40 degrees." The boy testified that he felt " worried and angry" when confined in bathroom.

After being taken into protective custody, the children underwent a medical examination. Both children were small for their age. Hansen's son weighed 83 pounds and was just over five feet tall. His height and weight were determined to be at less than the 5th percentile for his age, meaning that at least 95 per cent of boys at the same age would be expected to be taller and heavier. Hansen's son also showed no signs of puberty even though he was 14 years old. A pediatrician who treated both children for almost a year after they were taken into custody determined both children were provided inadequate calories for appropriate weight gain and ...


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