- Associated Press - Saturday, December 10, 2011

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — An Irvine couple who suspected their 15-year-old son of smoking turned to a man believed to be relied on in their church to violently discipline children, authorities said.

The parents asked Paul Kim, 39, to discipline their son after finding a lighter in his possession, dropping the boy off at Kim’s Chino Hills home with permission for the beating, San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokesperson Cindy Bachmann said Saturday.

Kim hit the child with a metal pole about a dozen times, causing severe bruising on his legs, according to Bachmann. The pole was about an inch in diameter, investigators said.

An adult at the boy’s school saw the bruises and called Irvine police, who in turn informed San Bernardino County officials, she said.

Kim was arrested Tuesday at his home and released Thursday after posting bail. He faces a felony charge of willful cruelty to a child. No court date has been set, according to jail records.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office was reviewing the sheriff’s department report and will decide whether to charge the teen’s father, Bachman said. It wasn’t immediately known whether the father was present at the time of the beating.

The names of the boy and his parents were not released.

Investigators believe Kim has been used in this way by other families in the congregation, and asked for victims and witnesses to come forward.

The name of the church was not released, but Bachman said it was located in La Habra.

It wasn’t immediately known whether Kim had hired an attorney. A message left at a Chino Hills listing with his name was not returned Saturday.

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