Child survived torture in Lakeland home, police say

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County boy could have died without medical attention following abuse at a Lakeland home this summer, according to police.

“It’s the worst injuries I’ve ever seen on a child. He was literally tortured,” said Detective Cory Lawson, Lakeland Police Department. “He had lacerations, bruises swelling, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.”

Police arrested Donald Pugh, 38, and accuse him of underfeeding, tazing and tying up a child, among other allegations.

Police also allege Pugh used hours-long military exercise as punishment.

Police did not release the age of the victim to protect his privacy.

His attorney declined to comment.

The child was hospitalized twice this summer. At one point, he needed surgery and a feeding tube.

Detective Lawson believes that saved his life.

“I honestly believe that he would have died. The injuries that he had…he was taken to Tampa General and he was treated for his injuries and discharged. He was later brought back to Tampa General because he had internal bleeding from those injuries that he had initially sustained,” he said.

“I have no doubt that he would have died if he stayed where he was at,” a doctor who treated the boy told police.

“We have demons inside our house,” another person told police.

Police and the Department of Children and Families initially got involved after Pugh brought the child to the hospital, in reference to behavioral issues and so-called, self-inflicted injuries.

Doctors rejected that idea, saying the injuries were likely due to abuse.

Pugh remained in jail on $75,000 bond, as of Friday evening.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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