San Diego

Neighbors Gather to Pray for 5-Year-Old Boy Found ‘Severely' Abused in Home

Dozens gathered to pray for a 5-year-old boy outside the home of a U.S. Navy sailor, who was arrested, along with his girlfriend, on suspicion of severely abusing the child.

Benjamin Matthew Whitten, 33, a Murrieta resident stationed in San Diego and Jeryn Christine Johnson, 25, were arrested Tuesday. Both were booked on suspicion of child abuse and inflicting great bodily injury on a person under 10 years old.

Whitten's son remains in intensive care at Rady Children's Hospital.

Wednesday night, about 50 people gathered outside the home to pray for the boy.

"As a mother, I want to hold him and let him know everything is going to be ok," vigil organizer Myra Jacobson said.

"Sometimes he'd try to come out and play," one neighbor said. "But they would like just pull him back in."

Next door neighbor Amy Mitchell told NBC 7, she saw the boy as he was taken to the hospital.

"They were just pumping on his chest and he had like a defibrillator or something in his mouth," Mitchell said.

Investigators said the boy had severe injuries and was malnourished.

Stephanie Lewis said her daughter went to the same day care as the boy. She added he was small and underweight for his age.

"I feel...sorry...I feel like we should have known something. I feel like the provider should have reported," Lewis said.

Murrietta police also discovered 11 dogs, four cats and two fish inside the home, which was described at "extremely unsanitary."

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