Accused of torturing, starving and confining their son in his room for stealing snacks, two Arapahoe, Wyoming, parents are facing up to life in prison on an enhanced child abuse charge alleging they seriously hurt the boy.
A federal prosecutor has filed federal child abuse charges against Truman Sittingeagle, 36, and Kandace VanFleet, 33, also known as Kandace Sittingeagle. Each faces no fewer than 10 years in prison, and up to life in prison, if convicted.
Each also faces a charge of aggravated child abuse, punishable by up to 25 years in prison plus fines.
The investigation started sometime before Dec. 12, when Bureau of Indian Affairs School Resource Officer Matt Lee, of Arapaho School on the Wind River Indian Reservation, went to check on a boy who hadn’t been at school in a month.
Lee went to the boy’s home multiple times to find the boy, but couldn’t, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed Thursday by FBI Special Agent Scott Jensen.
Get Him Out Here
But on Dec. 12, Lee demanded to see the boy.
Truman Sittingeagle, the boy’s stepfather, allowed Lee to see the boy, who had been hiding in a crawl space under the home, the affidavit says.
He emerged from the crawl space, his face bruised and swollen, his body 10 pounds lighter than when Lee had last seen him, the document alleges.
An ambulance reportedly took the boy to Riverton’s SageWest Health Care, then an air ambulance took him to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
While the boy was still in the Riverton hospital, Jensen looked over his injuries. Besides his bruised and swollen face, the boy’s arms, ears, chest and back were bruised, the affidavit says. Lacerations reportedly riddled his fingers, face, ear and scalp.
The boy moved slowly, saying he was in pain, and his legs were bruised, says the affidavit.
“I heard (the boy) tell the treating nurse that he was very hungry,” Jensen wrote, adding that the boy said he’d eaten a bag of chips on the way to the hospital and had had a sandwich the night before, but that was all he’d eaten for several days.
Maybe, For Thanksgiving
During a child and adolescent forensic interview, the boy reportedly said he had a “bad habit” of stealing food and hiding it in his room. His stepfather and mother, the Sittingeagles, told him he was causing a mouse problem, the affidavit relates from the boy’s interview.
When they found he was stealing food, they tried tying his bedroom door closed, but he was able to sneak out at night and get food, the affidavit says.
“This made them mad. They put a lock on his door. They also screwed the window shut so he could not get out that way,” Jensen wrote.
Two weeks passed.
The boy thought they’d let him out for Thanksgiving, but they didn’t, the affidavit says.
He lost track of time and things became “foggy,” says the document. He heard his mom yell at him through the wall saying he’d been in there for a month, and “wouldn’t he like to be out having fun with the family?” Jensen related.
The document says that sometimes they’d give him food, usually leftovers. He had nothing to do and sat in his room.
Blacking Out, Waking Up
When he’d stolen food prior, his parents would allegedly hit and punch his face.
Truman Sittingeagle put a choke hold on the boy until he lost consciousness, and when he “woke up,” Sittingeagle hit him, the document says.
When he lost consciousness, the boy felt “numb;” his body felt like spaghetti; his head tingled, and he drifted in and out of waking at least twice, says the affidavit.
Meanwhile, his mother Kandace was “taking care of the babies or taking the girls to school” during the alleged choke holds.
The boy reportedly said that Truman Sittingeagle would hit him if he didn’t answer questions the right way.
His mom would also hit him in the head with her hands, but that “her hits did not hurt,” Jensen related.
Kandace Sittingeagle told Truman at some point, “You need to quit hitting that boy or something bad will happen,” says the affidavit.
Truman Sittingeagle also would hit the boy with a stick from the closet, which the boy tried to block with his hands until they swelled up “like balloons,” says the document.
One day the boy reportedly woke to his mother hitting his hands with the stick.
On another occasion the boy stood in the corner of his room while Truman Sittingeagle rifled through, looking for food and wrappers. When Truman found some food, the mother reportedly kneed the boy between the legs, dropping the boy to the floor.
Moments or hours before Lee found the boy, he’d been sitting in his room when he overheard Truman talking to Kandace on the phone.
Then Truman told the boy to put his shoes on and hide in the crawl space under their trailer house home, says the affidavit.
The boy stayed there until Lee told him to come out.
Broken Back, Broken Face
Dr. Kristine Campbell evaluated the boy at the Primary Children’s Hospital said that in addition to the bruising and cuts, the boy’s right nasal bone was fractured and his spine contained healing lumbar fractures, the affidavit relates. He had another serious reported injury which Cowboy State Daily has chosen not to disclose.
Authorities forensically interviewed the boy’s five half-siblings who are all younger than 9.
A little girl confirmed that the boy had a lock on his door, says the affidavit.
Another little girl said she doesn’t like how her brother gets hurt.
“Sometimes her parents hurt (the boy) and he can’t walk,” Jensen related, adding that the boy “screams when Truman Sittingeagle hits his legs.”
Another child confirmed that the parents hurt his brother “by beating him up,” the affidavit says.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.