AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A pastor and his brother were convicted Wednesday in the beating of a Bible student, who was struck repeatedly with a tree branch after acting up during a summer church program.
Joshua Thompson and his twin brother, Caleb, 23, were convicted of felony charges of injury to a child and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the beating of Louie Guerrero, who was 11 at the time.
Prosecutors say the beating caused injuries so severe that Guerrero spent a week in intensive care under the threat of kidney failure and needed a blood transfusion.
“I knew they were going to be guilty. I wasn’t worried about it,” said Guerrero’s mother, Norma Arellano. “It hurt me very much what they did to my son.”
The jury deliberated about three hours. Sentencing was set for Thursday when they could face anything from probation to life in prison.
The courtroom, which was packed with Guerrero’s family and church members, was silent when the verdicts were read. The Thompsons showed no outward reaction as the convictions were announced.
Several members of the fundamentalist Capitol City Baptist Church left in tears after the twins were taken into custody. Guerrero flashed a big smile when he walked out with his family.
Prosecutor Beth Payan called the Thompson brothers “cowards” and “bullies” and said the beating was a “cold, calculated, violent act against a little boy.”
At one point during closing arguments, Payan raised a yardstick over her head and smacked it down on a table in front of the jury to simulate the beating.
Guerrero, now 12, and a doctor who treated him said he was hit at least 100 times. Jurors saw graphic photos of the boy’s back with red and purple bruises and blood spots from scrapes or puncture wounds.
“Josh Thompson unleashed his anger and his rage on that 11-year-old boy,” Payan said.
The brothers admitted the beating but disputed the blow count and its intensity. Joshua Thompson said Guerrero’s parents had given him permission to punish the boy and that he didn’t intend to inflict serious injuries. Guerrero’s parents deny telling him he could hit their child.
“When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I try to forgive myself,” Caleb Thompson said.