Officials: Mom forced son to live alone in church
HOUSTON A Liberty County Sheriff's Office spokesman says this is still very much an open investigation, but Child Protective Services tells Eyewitness News that Patricia McHaney, 28, has a June 4 court date over the custody of all three of her boys after her 8-year-old son told authorities he was being punished by being forced to live by himself in a church. Bethel Baptist Church in Tarkington sits across Highway 321 from McHaney's home. It's where her 8-year-old son told authorities he'd been forced to live, with nothing but a bucket and a roll of toilet paper as punishment. A worker at the veterinary clinic next door found the boy, barefoot, dirty and underweight. The veterinarian didn't want to go on camera, but told Eyewitness News the 8 year old was found in the large animal barn alone. A relative, who also didn't want to be interviewed, says the boy was being punished for feeding his 18-month-old brother a hot Cheeto. But neighbors say McHaney is a good mother and that this is a big misunderstanding. "We seen them several times, seen her and the kids going back and forth," neighbor Jeanette Lawrence said, "She's always working. I mean she works diligently over here." The Lawrences also say the boy would have had to cross the heavily-travelled highway to use a bathroom, because the church's plumbing was under repair. "They just shut the water off," neighbor Jimmy Lawrence said. "The bucket was just in case he couldn't make it across the street because they weren't allowed to cross the street unless there was no traffic at all." But CPS says this is an inappropriate discipline case. "Isolation is difficult to say that's appropriate discipline of an 8-year-old," a spokeswoman for the agency said. The agency now has custody of all three of McHaney's sons, ages 11, 8 and 18 months. McHaney's attorney advised her not to comment, but she has not been charged with any crime yet. "Investigator was sent out and has investigated and turned his investigation over to the district attorney's office, and it's in their hands now," said Steve Green with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office. This is the fifth time CPS has investigated the welfare of McHaney's children. The first time was in 2001 when McHaney couldn't be found. Then in 2005, McHaney was investigated for alleged sex abuse that she was not involved in. In 2008, she was reviewed for inappropriate discipline, and CPS says McHaney was found to be neglectful and her boyfriend abusive. She was once against investigated in 2009 for physical neglect but CPS says McHaney was not physically neglectful.