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Police: Couple used bats in beatings of mentally ill Arlington Heights man

James Knox | Tribune-Review
Detectives with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office on Monday charged Jimmie Peterson, 68, and Michelle Thompson, 61, both of Arlington Heights, for assaulting Cherron Peterson, 25. Police led the two out of the Dormont Municipal Building on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.

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Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
 

The wooden baseball bat was too heavy.

So Michelle Thompson told investigators she used an aluminum bat — because it was “lighter and easier to swing” — to discipline her boyfriend's mentally challenged grandson, breaking or fracturing several bones. He had to seek treatment in UPMC Presbyterian under the pseudonym “John Doe.”

Detectives with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office on Monday charged Thompson, 61, and Jimmie Peterson, 68, both of Arlington Heights, with assaulting Cherron Peterson, 25.

Both Thompson and Jimmie Peterson are being held on $250,000 bail in the Allegheny County Jail on numerous charges, including aggravated assault, neglect of a dependent and recklessly endangering another person. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Cherron Peterson has been placed in a group home. Relatives of Thompson and Jimmie Peterson couldn't be reached on Monday, and it wasn't clear whether they had attorneys.

“Everybody was offended by what happened here,” District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr said. “If they're convicted of these crimes, then we're going to ask for penitentiary time.”

Jimmie Peterson and Thompson admitted to investigators that they beat Cherron Peterson with belts but, when that became ineffective, they switched to wooden and aluminum bats, withheld food “if he didn't act appropriately” and taped him to a wooden chair and locked him in the third-floor storage room, according to a criminal complaint filed by Detective William Minett.

According to the complaint, Thompson, Jimmie Peterson's longtime companion, was paid with “room and board” and added to the lease as Cherron Peterson's caretaker at the home, which is owned by the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. Cherron Peterson receives $730 a month in Social Security, the complaint said.

When police questioned Thompson about Cherron Peterson's injuries, she said “she knew this day was coming.” After one beating, she told investigators she knew Cherron Peterson's arm was broken, but she did not seek medical attention for him “because it was not her business.”

Peterson, who has been his grandson's guardian since he was 2, told police he hit him with a bat once or twice a month for three or four years.

The investigation stemmed from a report filed by a mental health case worker who received an anonymous complaint from a neighbor that Cherron Peterson was being forced to stand outside for hours in the cold as punishment for urinating in the house. The case worker, Andrea Schultz, noticed bruises on Cherron Peterson's face and hands. During the interview, Cherron Peterson said he didn't feel safe at home.

During a follow-up visit a few days later, Thompson told a caseworker that Cherron Peterson disappeared during the weekend.

Police in Zone 5 found him and took him to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, where doctors found skull, elbow, wrist and arm fractures, and several older fractures that had healed. He was treated in the hospital under the name “John Doe” for his protection, according to the complaint.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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