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W.Va. foster father faces abuse charges

February 09, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Martinsburg man has been charged with felony child abuse after a foster child told authorities he had been burned with a cigarette lighter and tied with duct tape, according to court records.

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Bruce A. Hartman, 38, was released on $1,000 bond Monday following arraignment in Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

An 8-year-old boy told a case worker with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources that he was intentionally burned and tied up in an attic of his foster parents' home on Nov. 23, 1998, according to court records. The actions were taken after the boy set fire to a tree fort, according to allegations contained in court records.

The caseworker told police the boy was burned on the side of his hand with a butane lighter in order to teach him a lesson about fire safety, according to court records.

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The boy told the case worker he was taken into an attic and bound with duct tape around his mouth, wrists, ankles and head. The boy was then tied to an attic truss and left in that position for an undetermined amount of time, according to court records.

The caseworker told a trooper from the Martinsburg detachment of the West Virginia State Police that the boy's story was verified after several caseworkers interviewed Hartman and the boy on different occasions, according to allegations contained in court documents.

Hartman, reached by telephone at his home Monday evening, said he had no comment.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely called the situation "bizarre" and said she had not seen a case before in which a child was alleged to have been bound with duct tape.

The boy was removed from Hartman's home immediately after the allegations were reported, said Games-Neely.

"These are difficult cases. Anybody can abuse a child at any time and it's hard to remove a child from foster care because there is always the possibility they can be abused in the next home," said Games-Neely.

A preliminary hearing has not been set for the case.

Conviction on a child abuse charge carries a penalty of one to five years in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.

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