San Diego Navy sailor, girlfriend arrested on suspicion of torturing five-year-old boy

MURRIETA (KUSI) — A five-year-old boy was at a San Diego hospital in grave condition and two people faced child abuse charges Thursday after the boy was found malnourished in a Murrieta home.

San Diego-based Navy sailor Benjamin Whitten, 33, and his live-in girlfriend Jeryn Johnson, 25, were arrested Tuesday in Murrieta and face torture and child abuse charges after responders found a five-year-old boy with severe injuries in a home in the 24000 block of Verdun Lane, Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad said.

The child was transported to an area hospital but due to the severity of his injuries was taken by medical helicopter to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego where he was listed in grave condition.

Police said the incident was “an apparent case of child abuse” but did not specify what type of injuries the child suffered.

A candlelight service was held for the boy Wednesday evening. 

Murrieta police were alerted to the situation by a 911 call saying a child was in “medical distress” but it was unclear who made the phone call.

Detectives searched the home and found “extremely unsanitary” living conditions. Animal Control took 11 dogs, four cats and two fish from the home. It was determined the man and woman “were responsible for the dire condition of the child,” Conrad said.

Whitten and Johnson were being held at Cois Byrd Detention Center and were expected to be arraigned Thursday, but the judge postponed it until Aug. 24.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and the Murrieta Police Department continue to investigate the incident. 

Categories: Local San Diego News