Roberto Paul of Fort Lauderdale, Florida was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly disciplined his seven-year-old daughter by holding her hand over a stove, news sources report. Paul, 31, was booked into the Broward County Main Jail on charges of resisting arrest with violence and aggravated child abuse. A judge ordered that he be held in lieu of a $100,500 bail bond. It was not immediately clear whether Paul had hired a criminal defense lawyer.
According to reports, Paul has at least two daughters. It was unclear whether the children have another guardian other than Paul, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. Paul does not appear to have faced abuse allegations in the past. It is not clear who is caring for the girls while Paul is incarcerated.
The problems started when the seven-year-old wore her sister’s shirt without permission, sources say. Paul reportedly punished the girl by burning her hand. “[Paul] took [the victim’s] left hand, held it to a hot stove coil and permanently disfigured the child’s hand by burning the child’s hand,” a Broward county judge reportedly recounted during Paul’s court appearance. “The child struggled to be released from [Paul’s] grip.” The judge reportedly said Paul was accused of “maliciously punishing the child and knowingly causing permanent disfigurement to the child.”
It is unclear whether the child was hospitalized after the alleged incident; an update on her condition was not immediately available at press time. The county judge, in the mean time, reportedly ordered that Paul keep away from the child if he posts bail. “There is a certain level of danger she is in right now if you’re released from custody,” the judge reportedly said. The judge told Paul to not to contact his daughter, reports indicate.
Child abuse is rampant throughout South Florida and the United States, often because of inappropriate disciplinary measures. Earlier this month, Delray Beach resident Stephanie St. Fleur was apprehended for allegedly punishing her daughter by hitting her with a belt, sources report. St. Fleur, 23, was retained at the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of aggravated child abuse. She later posted a $5,000 bail bond and was released. It is unclear whether she hired legal aid.
Reports say police began looking into the alleged child abuse in August 2011. An investigator with the Department of Children and Families allegedly spotted bruises on the girl. The investigator took pictures of the bruising, which was on the girl’s legs and back. A doctor later examined the photos and said there were 30 visible marks on the victim. The doctor reportedly suggested that the bruises were signs of abuse and not of roughhousing with other children.
St. Fleur proved difficult to contact, sources indicate, but an investigator was eventually able to catch up with her and show her the photos. She reportedly told the investigator that she struck the victim with a belt as punishment, causing the some of the bruises seen in the pictures. St. Fleur was subsequently arrested.