- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - Police say a 6-year-old autistic boy from western Maryland has improved enough to be off life support, but he’s still in critical condition.

Washington County Sheriff’s Maj. Peter Lazich said Tuesday that more than two weeks after Dustin Barnhart of Hancock was allegedly abused, he remains at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. He was taken there July 3 with severe head trauma and bruises.

The mother’s boyfriend, 21-year-old Jacob Vanmeter, is charged with child abuse and assault. Defense attorney John Salvatore (SAL’-vah-tor) says Vanmeter denies causing the injuries.

Vanmeter and the boy’s mother initially told investigators Dustin fell off the porch. Police say Vanmeter later acknowledged he sometimes hit and kicked Dustin, and that he had grabbed him forcefully that night “to scare him into being good.”

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