Both parents now charged in boy's beating

April 6, 2009 4:10:49 PM PDT
A man accused of viciously beating his 3-year-old son claims he wasn't hitting the boy but trying to drive a demon out of the child's body, authorities said Monday. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Relatives say Jacky Tran, who is being held in the Harris County Jail on a $100,000 bond after being charged with felony injury to a child, believed he was an angel trying to save his son.

"He told me that he thinks he's an angel right now," Tran's cousin-in-law Thuba To said Monday, the day after speaking with him in jail. "He told me the whole family are angels. The boy is an angel but evil took his body and that's the reason why he tried to take the evil out of his body. That's what he thought."

To said she and other family members are shocked the 35-year-old devout Buddhist could have done this and believe he has serious mental problems.

Jacky Tran made a brief court appearance Monday. His attorney, Jerome Godinich, did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press.

The boy's mother, Phung Tran, 36, has been charged with felony injury to a child and is in the county jail on a $30,000 bond. She was set to appear in court Tuesday. Court records did not list an attorney for her.

Lt. John Legg, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Department, said a deputy was called to the Tran home Saturday evening in response to an alarm.

The deputy found all the home's windows were open and music was blaring from inside. A man, later identified as Tran, was seen by the deputy in a second-floor bedroom.

"He observed (Tran) yelling and striking downward at something," Legg said. "There was a break in the music and the deputy then heard a child screaming."

Before the deputy and other officers could force their way into the home, Tran came downstairs and was arrested. Inside, deputies found Phung Tran tending to the boy, whose face and head had been "seriously pummeled," Legg said.

The boy's head was swollen to the point where his eyes could barely open, said Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Tran "was saying, 'I wasn't beating my son. I was beating the demon out of him.' He was apparently repeating that," Legg said.

The boy, who was still hospitalized Monday, was expected to survive, officials said.

Legg said Jacky Tran had apparently been experiencing a change in mood and behavior over the past week. Deputies found furniture from inside the home piled in the front and back yards.

To said she had not spoken with Jacky Tran in about a week but he had never acted strangely before.

"He's a very nice person, very responsible with his family," she said.

Child Protective Services was given custody by a judge on Monday of the boy and his 6-year-old sister, who was in the home on Saturday but wasn't injured, said CPS spokeswoman Gwen Carter.

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