by SEAN KIMMONS
When his own father allegedly threw him into a TV screen last March, 3-year-old Tristan Morgan needed 10 stitches to close a gash on his forehead, court records show.
More questions arose later the same month when the boy broke his arm under suspicious circumstances. The accounts of continued abuse led to Tristan’s removal from his home this summer and eventually landed his parents in jail.
Jerold Morgan, 27, and Alexandra Gatlin, 25, were arrested Oct. 12 for injury to a disabled child, a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison.
Tristan is deaf with a tracheotomy tube and a gastric-feeding tube, and police describe him as a developmentally delayed child. Three nurses who cared for Tristan at the suspects’ home in the 200 block of Janzet Drive notified authorities of the alleged abuse.
One of the nurses, Amanda Tolleson, informed police that she saw Tristan with visible injuries on several occasions.
In November 2010, the nurse observed a large bruise, black eye and swollen cheek on the boy’s face. She said that Jerold told her that Tristan was walking with him outside to his car when Tristan threw himself to the ground and scraped some rocks. But the nurse said she didn’t believe the father since the boy could not walk on his own at that time, an affidavit used to secure an arrest warrant says.
The nurse recalled a second episode in March: Jerold said his son had been rocking in a chair and launched himself into a TV, shattering it. She doubted the father’s story again, and called Tristan very timid and cautious without the strength to do that. Instead, she said that Jerold tossed his son into the TV, she said in the affidavit, written by San Marcos Police Det. Kathy Misiaszek.
Tolleson detailed a third injury which resulted in an emergency room visit for Tristan. His mother, Gatlin, explained to the nurse that she was alone with Tristan when she saw him break his arm while falling.
But police heard a contradictory story when a psychologist said that Jerold revealed to him that he was holding Tristan’s hand when his son pulled away and fell, causing the injury, investigators say.
In addition, Tolleson disclosed several times when Jerold used his foot to push Tristan out of the way or made him stand in a corner for longer than an hour as part of punishment. Both parents also withheld medical treatment for a life-threatening infection that later sent the boy to the hospital, she said.
The nurse also claimed she witnessed Jerold frequently kick the family dogs and one time strangle a cat until it was unconscious.
The other two nurses, Vea Hodo and Amy Redding, who also care for Tristan during 16-hour shifts on weekdays, corroborated much of the stories, saying that Jerold is neglectful and mentally abusive to Tristan and his younger sister.
In one example, Redding said the boy had just received Cochlear implants, similar to hearing aids. The doctor warned her and the parents that Tristan should be in a quiet setting until he got comfortable with the implants. When they got into the car to drive home, she says, Jerold cranked up the radio and laughed before turning it down, the affidavit stated.
As of Tuesday, Jerold remained in custody at Hays County Jail on a $25,000 bond, while Gatlin had been released on a bond for the same amount.
According to Hays County civil records, an emergency protective order was issued for Tristan on June 17.
SEAN KIMMONS reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print