Update: The charge against Teresa Berndt was dropped on Dec. 10, 2019. [ef/191211t]
Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies responded to two separate incidents of alleged child abuse in two days in Palm Coast, both of them resulting in the arrest of parents involved: Andrew Bass, a K-Section resident, and Teresa Berndt, a W-Section resident.
And for the second time in two weeks, the alleged child victims in both cases spoke up to authorities to seek help and report the abuse.
One incident took place Thursday evening. A 17-year-old girl says she was watching TV in her Palm Coast home when her 32-year-old step-mother came in and yelled at her to give her the remote. The girl refused, having been watching first. Bass, 36, the girl’s father, heard the commotion, walked in, told his daughter to give up the remote, was refused, then “proceeded to punch her in the face with a balled fist, making her lose consciousness temporarily,” according to his arrest report. He then allegedly put his hands around his daughter’s neck “and squeezed to the point where she couldn’t breathe.”
Bass walked out of the room. The girl’s stepmother then drove her to a relative’s house. When the stepmother described the incident, she told deputies that the 17 year old had been in a tug of war over the remote with Bass before throwing it away and shattering some glass. But the girl “had finger marks around her neck consistent with her statements, a red swollen right eye, and a bloody nose,” the arrest report states. Her mother took her to AdventHealth Palm Coast.
When deputies contacted Bass by phone, he said he was working and that he would give a statement later. The Sheriff’s Office said he never did. He was arrested this morning at 3:15 a.m. and charged with child abuse, domestic battery and battery by strangulation.
The other incident took place the previous day, involving a 14-year-old boy. The boy had decided not to get off at his usual bus stop on Nov. 13, and instead got off at a friend’s bus stop. When his step-mother, Teresa Berndt, 38, found out, she chased him down at that bus stop and allegedly “grabbed him by the hair and pushed him into the car.”
Berndt told deputies that when she told him to get in the car, the boy told her: You aren’t my mom, I don’t have to listen to you.”
Back home, she allegedly grabbed him by the neck and pushed him into the bathroom as the two fought physically. Berndt allegedly grabbed him by the neck and head-butted him, and made him clean the bathroom with a toothbrush. The boy’s sister corroborated her brother’s account. Both children said their mother had never been physically confrontational with them before.
The boy talked about the confrontation to school authorities the next day. The guidance counselor noticed two red marks on the boy’s neck. He was afraid to go home. School authorities contacted a shelter, but the shelter was at capacity.
Berndt did not dispute that she had the child clean the bathroom with a toothbrush, but at most held him down when he allegedly became confrontational. She said she held him down and blamed him for causing her to fall on him, and causing him to hurt his head. She said she got him water and Aspirin after that.
Deputies concluded from their investigation that excessive force was used, and that “choking and head butting are not forms of discipline,” as both could lead to greater harm.
“I am proud of these children for coming forward and reporting the abuse before it could get any worse,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a release. “All children should know that they can approach a trusted teacher, school resource deputy, or call us for help. Parents have the right to discipline their children but it must be done appropriately and without violence. I hope that this is a wakeup call for the parents to learn proper parenting and appropriate child discipline. I hope the families get the help they need from DCF.”
Child abuse and neglect can be reported by calling 911, the sheriff’s non-emergency line at 386-313-4911, or by calling the abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (22873).