Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Neighbors Testify to Child Beatings; Stepfather Is Accused of Spanking His Three Boys with a Belt

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Neighbors Testify to Child Beatings; Stepfather Is Accused of Spanking His Three Boys with a Belt

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN LEWIS

ST. AUGUSTINE -- Accused of subjecting four stepsons to belt beatings and bizarre punishments, Henry Marcum faced his neighbors Tuesday as they testified against him in his trial on three counts of child abuse.

The case began when Marcum's fourth stepson was found hanging by a belt from his bunk bed in April 2004, but jurors were not supposed to hear about that. It came out anyway when a state witness mentioned it, leading to a defense motion for mistrial that Circuit Judge J. Michael Traynor denied.

Marcum, 42, has prior convictions for robbery and grand theft, and could face a sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

His wife and the children's mother, Jeannie Marcum, faces four counts of being a principal to child abuse at a later date. Both bonded out of jail in 2004.

Witnesses on Tuesday described "noogies," beatings behind closed doors and Marcum's statements that he used corporal punishment. All of them testified before a jury of six middle-aged men that they had spanked their children but did not believe in corporal punishment with a belt.

A neighbor from the upscale Julington Creek Plantation in northwest St. Johns County recalled Marcum taking two stepsons into a room during a party on Labor Day. John Tevlin described "bursts of loud crying," and the boys emerging from the bedroom in tears and pulling up their pants. Marcum followed them out, Tevlin said.

"He adjusted his pants and said, 'Nothing a few good whacks can't take care of,' or something to that effect," Tevlin said.

Another neighbor, Elizabeth Benton, said Marcum once asked her if she beat her children. He brought it up in a chat over beers on his patio.

"I stated that no, we did not beat our children," Benton said. "That wasn't the way we punished our children."

"What did he tell you?" Assistant State Attorney Cheryl McCray asked. …

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