Fulton man arrested, accused of harming children

Courtesy of the Callaway County Sheriff's Office Austin Johnson's mugshot

A Fulton man was arrested Tuesday in connection with a child abuse investigation.

Austin Johnson, 28, faces two felony charges - abuse or neglect of a child and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child creating substantial risk.

According to the probable cause statement, the mother left her three children, ages 5 years, 2 years and 9 months, in Johnson's care when she went to work on Sunday. Johnson is the mother's cousin.

Officers observed a black eye on the left side of the 2-year-old's face, "with the whole left side of the face swelling with a green and bluish tint."

The 9-month-old had "a very dark color bruise on the left side of the face in the area of the ear and the side of the head," the statement said.

The mother stated Johnson had a drinking problem.

In a police interview, Johnson said he drank a fifth of tequila throughout the day in addition to smoking marijuana.

The statement said Johnson "was playing a little rough" with the 2-year-old while the 9-month-old "was crawling on the ground in the area."

Johnson said he slapped the 2-year-old "a little to[o] hard" accidentally and started to notice red marks. Scared to tell the mother what happened, Johnson told her the 2-year-old fell down a flight of stairs.

Johnson said he might have stepped on the 9-month-old, but "he wasn't sure what happen[ed] because he was heavily intoxicated at the time he was in the care of the small children," the statement said.

The 5-year-old said Johnson slapped the 9-month-old because they would not stop crying. Johnson was also being rough with the 5-year-old but they were able to get away.

Johnson remains in the Callaway County Jail with a $75,000 bond. His initial appearance in court was scheduled for Friday morning.