RIVERTON — A man accused of duct-taping the mouth of his 12-year-old wheelchair-bound autistic stepson and then roughly ripping the tape off to purposely make it hurt has been arrested for investigation of child abuse.
Steven Kimball, 42, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Wednesday night for investigation of child abuse resulting in two or more injuries, a second-degree felony, and abuse of a disabled child, a third-degree felony.
The boy, Tyler, has a form of muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair since age 10, according to Salt Lake County Jail records. He can move his head and arms but has no other mobility, according to the report. He also is on only a first-grade learning level.
"I can't believe all this is happening," said Holly Kimball, Steven Kimball's wife and biological mother of Tyler. "I think he snapped and went overboard this time."
Holly Kimball works at night and stays home during the day to watch Tyler. On Tuesday, Tyler was having a rough day, Holly Kimball said, so she took her daughters to soccer practice while Steven Kimball stayed home and watched Tyler.
While she was gone, Steven Kimball, apparently frustrated with the boy, who would not stop "chattering," according to jail records, put duct tape over his mouth and then ripped it off.
"There were significant abrasions. Skin was missing from his cheeks," said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Don Hutson.
Steven Kimball later told sheriff's investigators who interviewed him that after he applied the tape "… he wanted it to hurt when he pulled it off," according to the jail report.
After ripping the tape from the boy's mouth, there was still tape residue left on his face, which Steven Kimball "used a rag to 'briskly' rub at … to remove it," jail records state. "Steven said he wanted the rubbing to be uncomfortable."
The rubbing left a half-dollar-size abrasion on his left cheek and a smaller one on his left ear, jail records state. His right cheek was swollen and discolored, according to jail records, and there were scratches on his scalp.
Holly Kimball said after ripping the duct tape from Tyler's mouth, Steven Kimball wrapped it around his head. When she got home, her first reaction was, "What the heck happened to his face?
"He said, 'I didn't think it would leave a mark like that.' I tried to believe him. I can't," she said. "I'm more in shock. I don't know. (Tyler is) very mentally challenged and can't express or tell me if anything's wrong. I had no idea anything was going on. I wish he could tell me."
Holly Kimball said she saw new pictures of her son today from doctors, and the injuries looked even worse than when she saw them on Tuesday. She has not been allowed to talk to her son during the on-going investigation. But she said social workers had talked to Tyler and told her that he seemed happy, was enjoying the attention he was getting and didn't quite understand everything that was happening in regard to the criminal investigation.
Thursday afternoon, sheriff's investigators returned to the Kimball house with a search warrant to collect more evidence. Hutson said detectives were still piecing the case together, which they planned on presenting to the Salt Lake District Attorney to screen for charges today. It will be up to the DA to determine what charges are warranted, he said.
The sheriff's office was notified of the situation after Tyler's stepmother picked him up and took him to his biological father.
Holly Kimball has been married to Steven for 10 years and has two daughters with him. She said neither she nor her daughters had ever been abused by him. But she said she could not condone his actions with Tyler.
"Not just on my kid, but any kid," she said. "I just want justice to be served and the right thing to happen."
State court records show StevenKimball was convicted of simple assault in 2004 and a reduced charge of alcohol-related recklessness in 1991.