By Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Lewis-McChord soldier has been charged with assault after he allegedly held his 4-year-old daughter mostly underwater because she couldn't recite the alphabet. Charging papers equated the technique to torture.
The incident came to light Jan. 31, when Joshua Tabor's girlfriend called police and said he was walking around their Yelm neighborhood, wearing a Kevlar vest and threatening to break windows, according to Thurston County Superior Court charging documents.
When officers arrived, Tabor's girlfriend told them that she and Tabor, 27, had just had an argument and that he beats his daughter, said Yelm Police Chief Todd Stancil. Officers found the girl hiding in a locked bathroom and covered with extensive bruises all over her body, including her ears.
"Once she spoke to officers, she was articulate and told us right away, 'Daddy did this,' " Stancil said.
The girl told officers that her father hits her, and she also said he would fill a sink, lay her on her back and put her head into the water until the water was up to her eyes, Stancil said.
According to Stancil and charging papers, Tabor told officers he used the water technique as a way to have his daughter learn the alphabet. "He felt she was academically behind for her age, and it was his way of trying to get her to learn," Stancil said.
Charging papers say Tabor "did not act as though he felt there was anything wrong with this form of punishment."
Prosecutors also allege Tabor would force his daughter to sit in urine-soaked clothes "until he gives her permission to change" as punishment for wetting herself.
Tabor is restricted to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord base during the investigation, Stancil said. He is to appear in court Feb. 16 for arraignment.
Stancil said officers called Child Protective Services, and a foster family took the girl to a hospital to make sure she didn't have serious injuries.
The girl had been staying with Tabor for six weeks. Tabor and the girl's mother, who lives in Kansas, had been involved in a lengthy custody battle and were supposed to share custody. The girl was to stay with each parent for five months, Stancil said.
The child had been raised by her maternal grandmother, who lives in Montana, since she was born. Stancil said the grandmother already has filed papers to regain custody.
According to Stancil, Tabor wouldn't let the girl talk to her grandmother and took away a stuffed animal she sent. Police have since let her speak to her grandmother and returned the stuffed animal.
"She wanted to go back to Montana," Stancil said. "When we let her talk to [her grandmother] she was so excited she was crying."
Stancil said Tabor's girlfriend might also be charged in the case. "How can something go on for a month and a half and [she] not know anything about it?" he said.
Stancil said the girl's mother also came out from Kansas, but returned home without the child. "The grandmother beat her to the punch by filing the paperwork prohibiting [the mother] from being around her until the courts sort it out."
Updated, 7:38 a.m., Feb. 9: The girl's grandmother, who raised her, said she is back with her in Montana.
"It has to go before the judge yet, but we hope she will remain here permanently," the grandmother wrote in an e-mail. The grandmother, who says she has custody of the girl, asked not to be named because it would identify the child.
"She is quickly readjusting to being home again... more so due to the love and compassion she receives from us and from our neighbors who love her like their own," she wrote.
The grandmother said she hopes the girl's father faces strong punishment.
"Anyone who would harm a child like this, or even remotely close to this, deserves nothing less than the maximum sentence or more due to the defenselessness of a child this small," she said.