- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A man who punished his teenage son by confining him in a church bathroom lost an appeal Tuesday as the Missouri Supreme Court upheld his child abuse convictions.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court rejected assertions by Peter Hansen that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that he knowingly inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on his son.

Hansen his wife, 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter were living at a Seventh-day Adventist church after they were evicted from their Springfield home in April 2009.

Child-abuse investigators responding to a hotline call that November found the boy being kept as punishment in a cold, dark bathroom that was so small he was unable to fully stretch out while lying down. The boy had been confined there for days at a time and was allowed to leave for just 15-30 minutes of exercise each day, the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

The family maintained a low-calorie, largely vegetarian diet, and the children’s meals were sometimes limited even further or denied entirely as punishment. Hanson argued that the food restrictions amounted to nothing more than depriving his son of desserts and condiments, but the Supreme Court said there was evidence that the boy was malnourished.

After being removed from his parents’ custody, the boy’s weight rose from 83 pounds to 130 pounds in nine months, the Supreme court said in its ruling.

“This is not a case about sending a child to bed without dessert,” Judge Richard Teitelman wrote for the Supreme Court. “Instead, this is a case about placing a child in solitary confinement while knowingly withholding food to an extent that the child’s growth and development is demonstrably impaired.”

The case was argued before the Supreme Court on Oct. 1.

Hansen was convicted in 2011 of two counts of abusing his son, but jurors acquitted him of other charges and couldn’t reach a verdict on a child-abuse charge involving his daughter. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but a judge suspended the imposition of that punishment and instead placed him on five years of probation and 100 days in jail. Hansen already has served the jail time.


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