This time the victim’s 16-year-old sister–who, like her siblings, told authorities she’d been the victim of her mother’s physical abuse–caught her mother’s beating of her 14-year-old brother on her phone as it unfolded over five minutes the evening of Sept. 21 in the Patchogue Place house in Palm Coast.
The four segments she caught on her SnapChat app, lasting four minutes in total, have poor video quality “but the audio was very clear,” Flagler County Sheriff’s detective Augustin Rodriguez reported in the arrest report of Brittany Myers, a 38-year-old mother of five and a nurse at an AdventHealth newborn intensive care unit. (The report does not specify which campus; Palm Coast does not have a NICU unit. Daytona Beach does.)
The detective’s words describe a brutal, repeated assault of “loud smacks,” screaming, whimpering, crying, and Myers’s incessant insults of her son in the most demeaning, mocking terms as she orders him to lower his arms every time he tried to protect himself. She called him names. She mimicked his crying. She ordered him against the wall. She kicked him in his private parts when he was down and beat him over the head with a cell phone, which eventually broke. She choked him, as he would later tell detectives.
The 14-year-old boy told authorities there had been past incidents that were “sometimes worse,” with both he and one of his siblings kicked and choked in the past.
Myers was arrested on Thursday night on a charge of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony. Interviews with four of the five siblings–ages 16, 14, 9 and 7; the 2-year-old boy was not able to answer questions–revealed a pattern of alleged chronic physical and psychological abuse, stemming from Myers’s anger, of interventions by the Department of Children and Families, which had previously removed at least one child from the home, of both Myers and her husband, Marcus, coaching their children to deceive Department of Children and Families investigators “or other outside entities,” threatening them with possible homelessness if they revealed issues to DCD, and of Marcus not intervening during violent incidents:
A cell phone had been the trigger of the Sept. 21 incident. The 14-year-old boy had returned home with the phone–which, based on the arrest report’s account, had apparently been secured from the older girl’s boyfriend as a back-up to document Myers’s outbursts, in case Myers seized the girl’s phone. When Myers discovered that the boy had a phone, she demanded to know where he got it from and to have the password. The boy told her he did not know the password. She then begins to beat him and insult him. You can hear “a child whimpering and repeatedly crying out the word ‘No,'” the arrest report states. “You can hear several loud smacks,” and “As the smacks increase in quantity, the shrieking and crying from the child increase in volume. The adult female then tells the child “Shut the fuck up with your waa waa’s (mimicking the sound of crying). The adult female then tells the child ‘You don’t get your ass whooped until you sit there and lie, like a piece of shit.'”
The adult voice is heard repeatedly demanding to be given access to the phone between smacks, then actually complaining to him to move his arms because her own arm is broken, and she apparently needed unobstructed access to his body. She also happened to be naked during the entire encounter. (Myers would later tell detectives that she had “kind of a nudist family” as she declined to give them access to the many Ring cameras installed for surveillance inside the home.) At one point in Myers’s interview with detectives, she accused her son of harming her, blaming him for throwing himself on the ground any time she confronts him. That time, she said, he “threw himself to the ground and bent her toe backward,” according to the arrest report.
DCF got a report of the alleged beating on Tuesday, and was told as part of that report that the abuse “occurs often.” Child Protective Services initially interviewed the 14-year-old boy at his school–he attends one of the two middle schools in Palm Coast–and later submitted the video evidence to the Sheriff’s Office.
In a pair of interviews with authorities, Myers conceded that her oldest daughter had previously been removed from the house by DCF but said the abuse had not been verified, and blamed her daughter for lying. She then blamed a neighbor for calling in authorities about the incident on Tuesday before describing her two older children as problematic and defiant, describing her 14 year old as “lazy” and “entitled,” staying up late, not cleaning the kitchen when told to, sleeping in class and so on. She said she yells at her children but doesn’t abuse them, only spanking them–a form of child abuse not yet recognized in Florida law, as it is in some 60 countries, unless it crosses a threshold of violence defined as willful or cruel. Myers said she uses a flipflop for the spankings to create a “loud scare factor,” and never leaves bruises.
She downplayed the Sept. 21 incident as “back and forth,” and said any video of it would not be a true account because the angles wouldn’t show what was really happening. “When asked to clarify ‘back and forth,'” the report states, she said that “she spanked him, so he threw himself on the ground, then started running down the hallway so she grabbed him by the shirt and brought him back and made him stand against the wall.” She said she did not spank the 14 year old any differently than she did her 9 year old.
Forensic interviews were conducted with four of the five children by the Child Protection Team. The children described “whoopings” affecting the 14 year old most. He told authorities he believed his father was in a bedroom at the time of the Sept. 21 incident, and did not come out. When asked if he was up against the wall during that incident, he replied: “Yeah, and my Mom was choking me.” The report states that “the strangulation part occurred while he was standing against the wall and while he was on the floor. His breathing was impeded when his collar [was] pulled from behind.”
Rodriguez, the detective, showed the SnapChat clips to Myers. “After watching that video, do you think now that you hitting him the way that you did, for a minimum of four minutes, was a reasonable use of force to discipline a child?” Rodriguez asked her.
“I’m not answering that because you’re going to arrest me,” she replied.
DCF placed the children in a protective environment.
Myers was booked at the Flagler County jail Thursday evening and held on $15,000 bond. She was still there this morning, after her first appearance before County Judge Melissa Distler, who imposed a no-contact order with four of the five children or any minor children, which means the order also affects the youngest child–and children in Myers’s work capacity as a NICU nurse at AdventHealth, “where she cares for the children of others,” as her arrest report describes it.