Murrieta couple sentenced for abuse of 5-year-old boy

A Murrieta couple entered guilty pleas Friday to multiple counts of child abuse and received sentences for their mistreatment of a 5-year ...

A Murrieta couple entered guilty pleas Friday to multiple counts of child abuse and received sentences for their mistreatment of a 5-year boy.

Benjamin Matthew Whitten, 34, the boy's father, and his girlfriend, Jeryn Christine Johnson, 26, entered the pleas on the day their preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, according to a news release from the District Attorney's office.

Whitten pleaded guilty to eight counts, including child abuse and assault likely to cause great bodily injury or death. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Johnson pleaded guilty to three counts, including torture and child abuse causing the victim to become comatose. She was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

The boy survived the abuse but has required constant medical attention since police officers called to a home in the 24000 block of Verdun Lane on Aug. 15, 2017 found him unconscious with severe injuries. He was taken by ambulance a local hospital and then was airlifted to a San Diego County hospital, where he remained in a coma for several months.

Leslie Whitten, the child's grandmother, said the boy was "once a bubbly, active little boy … now confined to a wheelchair." She told judge William Lebov the boy is "learning to walk, talk, and eat again."

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