Family of abused boy: ‘Don’t be afraid to speak out’

Blue and silver balloons filled the sky to support not only a Greenwood boy who suffered severe child abuse, but to remember those who did not survive.

About five people gathered Monday night near a gazebo at Franklin’s Province Park to bring awareness to child abuse. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The organizer, a relative of the baby, discussed the importance of being a voice for children who cannot yet speak up for themselves.

The baby’s father, Colton Johnson, 22, faces up to 48 years in prison on charges of aggravated and domestic battery causing serious bodily injury and neglect of a dependent, all Level 3 felonies. An initial court hearing is set for Thursday in Johnson County Superior Court 3, according to online court records.

The child, who is recovering in foster care, ended up in the hospital after a relative reported the abuse to police.

The baby had a burn mark on his shin, and was displaying signs of a broken left leg. After a full skeletal exam, 19 fractures were identified throughout the baby’s body, some of which had healed, according to a Greenwood Police Department report.

Johnson told police he was heating a wax dab, a form of marijuana, on a rig and open flame, when some of the wax melted and dripped on the baby’s leg, causing the burn, the report said.

As for the other injuries, Johnson said he becomes frustrated with the child’s crying habits. On different occasions, he has forcefully picked up the baby from his bassinet, as well as laid him down forcefully in multiple positions out of frustration and walked away. Johnson also said he has yanked on the baby’s arms, legs, shoulders and sides when picking him up, according to the report.

A nurse practitioner at the hospital said there were fractures everywhere in the baby’s body, and it was the worst case of physical abuse she has observed, the report said.

No child should have to endure what this one did, and people should make abuse known, said Melissa Parker, another relative of the baby.

“I’ve been angry and heartbroken for that baby. No child deserves this — none,” Parker said. “If you feel you are losing control, call somebody for help, have a friend come over to talk to you. I’m totally in shock. I want to see awareness and I want other parents out there to know there are other ways. Like I said, if you’re stressed, reach out.”

Dave Webb, a family friend, drove a school bus for seven years, and quickly learned how important it was to notice signs of abuse, he said.

“When you’re in that situation, high schoolers are your kids. You have to watch your kids for any sign of anything,” Webb said. “People have to pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to speak out.”