Stepfather Jailed After Fracturing Skull of Three-Year-Old Stepson

January 25, 2018 Updated: January 25, 2018

A 21-year-old Georgia man is in jail facing multiple charges while his 3-year-old stepson struggles for life in a local hospital.

Joshua David Rivers, of Villa Rica, Georgia, was arrested shortly after 10 a.m. on Jan. 23 after police responded to a hysterical 911 call from the toddler’s mother.

The mother found the child unresponsive when she tried to wake him in the morning and saw bruising around his eyes.

Police believe Richards beat the child with a belt in the early hours of Jan. 23. The reason for the beating remains unknown.

“I’m just trying to wrap my mind around what triggered this incident,” Villa Rica Police Capt. Keith Shaddix told WSB-TV.

The child had to be airlifted to Egleston Children’s Hospital where he remained in critical condition, with bleeding on the brain and had had several seizures.

Rivers and the child’s mother were married in June 2017 and lived in the Hickory Falls Apartments, a clean and well-manicured complex in Villa Rica.

Police said that they had never been called to the address before, for domestic violence, child abuse, or any other cause, though they were poring over old 911 tapes to try to find any hint of what might have triggered the violence.

Hickory Falls Apartments in Villa Rica (11Alive screenshot)
Hickory Falls Apartments in Villa Rica. (11Alive/Screenshot)

“This is the first report we’ve had of any kind of child abuse,” Shaddix told WSB-TV. “I’m looking to see other type calls to that address.”

“We are still investigating,” Shaddix continued. “We want to make sure we have a full picture of what happened and what’s been going on in this child’s life.”

Richards was arrested at the scene and booked into the Carroll County Regional Detention Center. He was arraigned in Carroll County Superior Court on Jan. 24 on two counts of aggravated battery, one count of cruelty to children, and one count of possession of marijuana.

Richards was shaky and tearful in court when he said he understood the charged. He then asked the judge if this was a bond hearing, Fox5 reported.

The judge responded, “Right now, you need to be worried about that child. You don’t need to be worried about a bond.”

Joshua Richards was arraigned on Jan. 24. (11Alive screenshot)
Joshua Richards was arraigned on Jan. 24. (11Alive screenshot)

“During the investigation we determined that the injuries were caused by the stepfather Joshua Richards,” Capt. Shaddix told 11Alive, WXIA-TV.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and these kinds of cases break my heart,” Capt. Shaddix said.

Richards is the son of Carrollton Police Chief Joel Richards. Carrollton is about 10 miles southwest of Villa Rica, in the Carroll County seat, or capital.

Shaddix said that Chief Richards saw the investigations as his son’s issue, and was steering clear of any sort of involvement.

“Chief Richards has been totally professional he has been nothing but supportive,” Shaddix told WSB. “He has not interfered in our investigation, asked questions, open to any info I’ve requested from him.”