Two boys—C.H., b. 2003; and J.H., b. 2005—were beaten and starved by their parents, James and Tina Harbert (pictured). The boys were homeschooled. The Harberts’ daughter was not reported to be abused.
James Harbert used a 2×4, a dog leash, and his fists to beat the boys multiple times a week for as long as they could remember. The injuries inflicted to their buttocks were so severe that they could not sit down or walk normally and they had to wear diapers to contain the bleeding. One beating was so bad that J.H. spent 11 days in the hospital. C.H. attempted suicide because the pain was so severe. Harbert also choked the children until they passed out, deprived them of food for days, and forced them to sleep in the basement dog kennels. In 2009 C.H. went to school with a black eye and child services investigated. Tina Harbert lied to hospital personnel about C.H.’s injuries. Sometime later, the Harberts began homeschooling the children, ostensibly in order to use their labor for their dog kennel business. Tina Harbert also beat the boys with a 2×4 and occasionally dressed their wounds or gave them pain medication, but made no effort to get them medical care. By contrast, she told investigators she did not abuse her dogs “because they did not lie to her or misbehave.”
The abuse came to light in September 2015 when C.H. was sent to live with his maternal grandparents, who noticed the injuries to his buttocks and reported them to child services. Investigators then checked the other children and found that J.H. had “large, open, and weeping wounds across the entire length of his buttocks.” The boys were hospitalized; a month later, J.H.’s wounds still had not healed. James Harbert pleaded guilty to child abuse and was sentenced to 20-40 years in prison. Tina Harbert was found guilty of child abuse and was sentenced to 5-20 years in prison.
Date: September 20, 2015
Location: Spring Arbor, Michigan