A man and a woman from Greater Taichung have been detained incommunicado on charges of inflicting injuries resulting in death, after they allegedly beat their 12-year-old son to death for stealing money from them on Friday.
A preliminary examination by prosecutors found that the victim, a fifth-grade elementary-school student named Chien Wei-en (簡偉恩), had multiple newly inflicted injuries and calloused wounds across his back and thighs.
An autopsy has been scheduled to determine the cause of death, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that the boy’s father is an employee at a parking lot and his mother is a clerk at a mobile phone store, adding that both of them took on part-time jobs at restaurants at weekends to boost the family’s income.
According to the victim’s parents, they became overwhelmed with rage and started beating their son on Friday, after discovering that money was missing.
They said they urged their son — whom they allege had stolen more than NT$100,000 (US$3,449) from them since the third grade — to confess to the theft and explain the whereabouts of the money. Instead of confessing, they said he merely wrote “NT$1,000 to NT$2,000 ” on a piece of paper and claimed he had spent the money on food and toys from convenience stores, the parents said.
Infuriated by their son’s “careless attitude,” the parents said they took him to their room at 8pm on Friday, where they stripped him and ordered him to lean against a wardrobe, before taking turns to whip him with a cane for two hours.
Despite being caned and occasionally having his face pinched by his mother, the “obstinate” boy did not shed a tear during the entire process, they said, adding that they subsequently told him to put his clothes back on and remain in a squat position as further punishment.
The boy then hid himself overnight in a bathroom on the first floor of the house after he was kicked out of his parents’ room at midnight. The parents said he seemed normal when his father carried him to his room at 5am, prosecutors said.
However, when his mother entered the boy’s room at about 5pm on Saturday, his body had already turned cold. He was then taken to Tzu Chi Hospital’s Taichung branch.
Video from a surveillance camera near the hospital shows that the parents’ vehicle arrived at the emergency room at 6:57pm on Saturday, but the boy was pronounced dead on arrival.
“We disciplined our son yesterday [Friday] because he did not behave,” prosecutors quoted the parents as saying to the emergency room doctor.
The boy’s neighbors said they did not hear anything unusual on the night of the accident, adding that the parents seemed to be nice to their son.
According to the school the boy attended, his parents had come to them last month accusing the 12-year-old of having stolen about NT$200,000 from them and asked for the school’s help.
The school said it was surprised by the parents’ accusation as the boy had only been reported by his teacher for stealing stationery during the third and fourth grades, and had not engaged in any further acts of theft.
The boy was recently given an award for academic improvement, the school added.
As the parents gave conflicting statements on the total amount of money allegedly stolen by their son, prosecutors said they would look into the matter to ascertain the truth.
Greater Taichung Government Social Affairs Bureau director Wang Hsiu-yan (王秀燕) said the boy was the only child in the family, which did not have any record of domestic violence, nor was it listed as a high-risk family.
“Parents should refrain from resorting to corporal punishment to discipline children to prevent such tragedies,” Wang said.
Additional reporting by Yang Cheng-chun and Su Meng-chuan