A Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant and his school principal wife were charged Tuesday with abusing their teenage son, allegedly forcing him to sleep outside on a dog mat, preventing him from using the bathroom and pouring water on him as he slept.
Orange County prosecutors said the Yorba Linda teenager was abused over five months as punishment for such behavior as not finishing his math assignments or failing to come home from school when told.
In addition, prosecutors allege that the 14-year-old boy's father, Sgt. Grady M. Machnick, and his stepmother, Deborah Machnick, forced him to "earn" clean clothes and once put dog waste in the boy's backpack. His parents denied through an attorney that any abuse took place and said that they were simply trying to discipline their son.
The boy, whose name was not released, has been placed in the care of Orange County Social Services Agency, authorities said.
"It's very, very bizarre. I have not seen this type of conduct in my entire career," said Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary LoGalbo.
The Machnicks, both 45, were charged with one misdemeanor count of child abuse and endangerment. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Grady Machnick, a 22-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said Tuesday that he had not heard about the charges.
"I'm shocked," Machnick said. He declined to comment further.
The sergeant's attorney, John Barnett, said he could not talk about specific allegations but stressed that his client is adamant that he did not abuse the boy.
"He denies any mistreatment of his son," Barnett said. "Any actions that were taken were appropriate to the circumstances of disciplining a teenager."
Deborah Machnick, principal of Cyrus J. Morris Elementary School in Walnut, declined to comment.
Authorities said friends at school alerted Brea police in May. Detectives searched the home and found evidence that corroborated some of the allegations, prosecutors said. They declined to elaborate.
Prosecutors said the Machnicks will receive notices to surrender at an arraignment on Oct. 2.
Authorities contend that from January through the middle of May, the Machnicks forced their son to stay outside whenever his father was away from home.
Prosecutors said they are unsure why the parents did not allow the boy inside.
The boy was forced to sleep on the back porch, sometimes with a dog blanket and the clothes he was wearing, LoGalbo said. During the night, the teenager was sometimes prevented from using the bathroom and had to use a public restroom at a nearby park, LoGalbo said.
In one episode, the boy was sleeping on the back porch when his father returned home about 11 p.m., the prosecutor said. The sergeant allegedly poured water on the teenager to wake him up.
LoGalbo alleged the boy also suffered abuse for failing to complete chores around the house. As part of the discipline, the parents allegedly confiscated his belongings, then forced him to earn the items back through good behavior, LoGalbo said.
About five months ago, when the boy forgot to clean up dog droppings in the backyard, his stepmother allegedly collected some of the waste and dumped it inside the teenager's backpack, authorities said.
"He was warned that if he didn't take care of his chores, he would receive some sort of punishment," LoGalbo said.