Police called to Arlington Heights residence 7 times

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

Seven times since April 2012 police went to the Arlington Heights home of a man and his girlfriend accused of using baseball bats to discipline his mentally challenged 25-year-old grandson.

Jimmie Peterson, 68, and Michelle Thompson, 61, admitted to investigators that they beat Cherron Peterson with belts and bats, withheld food, and taped him to a wooden chair and locked him in a third-floor storage room, according to a criminal complaint.

Police records show officers in Zone 3 were called to the Rothman Street duplex of Peterson and Thompson between April 2012 and Nov. 27, when social service agencies began investigating complaints of abuse of Cherron Peterson.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, said Pittsburgh police assisted in the investigation, and it is ongoing. Manko said his investigators have not indicated that police failed to follow protocol.

Peterson and Thompson are held on $250,000 bail in the Allegheny County Jail. Detectives with the district attorney's office on Monday charged them on counts including aggravated assault, neglect of a dependent and recklessly endangering another person. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled Feb. 10.

Records the Tribune-Review obtained show police received three calls in 2012: a welfare check in April, the threat of a weapon in September and a disorderly person in October. The calls happened between midnight and 3:30 a.m., records show.

In 2013, calls to the home escalated. There was a report of a missing person at 2:43 p.m. on Jan. 11 and the report of a person being found four hours later. Police received a call for a verbal domestic dispute about 2 a.m. on March 16 and a call for a welfare check at 3:22 a.m. on Aug. 18.

Police would not disclose details of the incidents beyond the nature of the calls. Pittsburgh police Acting Chief Regina McDonald did not return calls, and Zone 3 Cmdr. Kathy McNeilly referred calls to the district attorney's office.

A neighbor whom police interviewed told them she believed Cherron Peterson may have been mistreated because she often heard yelling and screaming and “booming and bumping” sounds. She told police she saw him standing on the back porch alone for hours and noticed injuries on his head.

Police said the neighbor made several calls to police, the county office of Children, Youth and Families, and the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, but believed Thompson and Jimmie Peterson's claims the injuries were self-inflicted.

A neighbor interviewed by the Tribune-Review said she did not want to be identified out of fear of retribution.

Marc Cherna, director of the county Department of Human Services, which oversees CYF, could not talk about the case because his department helped place Cherron in a group home, but said that if CYF received a call about a 25-year-old mentally ill man being abused, they would refer the call to Adult Protective Services, a state-run program. Cherna could not say if CYF ever got involved in the boy's life before he turned 18.

According to the criminal complaint, the investigation into claims of abuse stemmed from a report filed by a UPMC case worker on Nov. 27 when she 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. A spokeswoman for declined comment, citing a policy “to protect patients.”

When a case worker with Adult Protective Services followed up on Dec. 2, Thompson said Cherron Peterson disappeared during the weekend; she described his injuries as self-inflicted.

Police found Cherron Peterson that day walking in the eastern part of the city. He told officers he was kicked out of a car. They 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.

The grandfather has had custody of Cherron Peterson since he was 2.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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