Arraignment continued for suspects in child torture case

The arraignment for two Murrieta residents charged with child abuse and torture of a 5-year-old boy was continued until Aug. 24 during the...

The arraignment for two Murrieta residents charged with child abuse and torture of a 5-year-old boy was continued until Aug. 24 during the couple's first court appearance Thursday since their Aug. 15 arrest.

Benjamin Whitten, 33, and Jerlyn Johnson, 25, each were charged with one count of torture and one count of child abuse with an allegation of causing a child to become comatose, according to a news release from the Riverside County District Attorney's office. Officers from the Murrieta Police Department responded to a 911 call at a residence in the 24000 block of Verdun Lane and found the child with severe injuries. He remains in grave condition in a San Diego hospital.

In Thursday's appearance at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, a public defender was appointed for Whitten. The public defender's office declared a conflict regarding Johnson, stating they can't represent both defendants in the same case. A defense attorney from the county's conflict panel will be appointed to represent her, said John Hall of the DA's office.

The defendants remain in custody in lieu of $1 million bail. They are scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 24.




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