A LeFlore County couple is facing charges after a cell phone video showing a mother allegedly abusing her child was given to authorities.
Rickey Leon Griffith, 36, of Arkoma, admitted to investigators that he recorded a video with his cell phone of his girlfriend abusing her child, according to court documents. The video was recorded last fall, but Griffith never gave it to police. Now he’s being charged with enabling child abuse and obstruction.
Christina Marie Hawkins, 26, of Arkoma, is charged with felony child abuse.
The video shows Hawkins putting her hand over the mouth of her screaming child, striking the child several times on the stomach, then throwing the child onto the couch, court documents state. In the video, Hawkins can be heard yelling the crying child.
Hawkins told investigators she meant to spank the child on the bottom and tried to sit the child down on the couch.
“I was trying to sit [the child] down but I guess she went flying,” Hawkins told investigators, according to court documents.
The child was 2-years-old at the time.
Griffith claimed he was being accused of child abuse so he took the video to prove he wasn’t the one abusing the children in the home. When asked why he did not report the abuse, he said he made a mistake, according to court documents.
A family member of Griffith’s took the video to the LeFlore County District Attorney’s office on Dec. 18, 2012. The video also circulated on Facebook.
"After I got the video this time, they [police] still kind of were 'iffy' about it but when I through it on Facebook and YouTube, and finally went to the DA's office, then they finally did the right thing," said Randall Chaney, family member who reported the alleged abuse.
The alleged abuse took place at the couple’s home in the 300 block of Poteau Street in Arkoma in September or October, court documents show.
The child is now in state custody.
Charges were filed against Griffith on Jan. 14. Hawkins was later charged on Feb. 1.
Hawkins was scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 7, however, her case has been continued to the next week. Griffith is expected to appear in court on March 6.
It's important to report anything that you suspect might be abuse, according to Fort Smith Police.
"Maybe you don't know the names of the people, they can send them in and they'll start working to identify them," Detective Kris Deason said. "And if they can identify them, they can start pulling them off."
Many cases go unreported.
"People tend to bury this sort of thing," said Coach, a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse. "If they hear it from someone over lunch, they don't like to go repeat that sort of thing. They don't want to go talk about that sort of thing. I think it’s brought to light what is going on out in our world, in our country, with our children.”
If you suspect child abuse, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
For more information visit http://www.childhelp.org/pages/hotline-home