RACINE — A Mount Pleasant man is facing life in prison in the death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son last week after the toddler appeared to have been punched in the mouth, whipped and burned after defecating in his pants.
Marcus A. Johnson, 26, of the 1500 block of Bryn Mawr Avenue, was ordered held on $500,000 bond Monday after he was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Friday’s death of Hunter J. Wise.
In asking that bond be set at $500,000, Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete said “I can’t think of anything more heinous and monstrous” than killing a child.
“Instead of protecting this child as he should have been doing, he tortured this child,” Chiapete said during Johnson’s initial appearance in court.
Johnson appeared in a dark green suicide suit. He sat, at times, hanging his head.
According to Mount Pleasant police, officers were called at about 10:10 a.m. Friday for an unresponsive child in the Lake Park neighborhood, in the 1500 block of Bryn Mawr Avenue, east of Highway 32. He was pronounced dead at 11:06 a.m. Friday at Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints hospital, at 3801 Spring St.
Hunter suffered burns to his buttocks consistent with being dipped in scalding water, according to his criminal complaint. Chiapete said Hunter also suffered “splatter burns” on his right ankle and left leg.
“So he was dipped in this scalding water with skin coming off of him,” Chiapete said during the hearing.
The initial cause of death is listed as shock, “due to significant trauma,” according to the complaint. Chiapete said the shock was triggered by those burns.
A child who was in the home at the time allegedly told investigators that Johnson “whooped (Hunter)” while yelling at him and pushed him to “lie down” in the bathtub after Hunter reportedly defecated in his pants, the complaint stated.
The alleged abuse occurred Friday while the boy’s mother was at work and Johnson was caring for Hunter and two other children, the complaint stated.
After the hearing, Chiapete declined to comment on whether those two children were related to Hunter and his mother, and if they remained in their mother’s custody or have been taken into protective custody.
Chiapete also declined to comment on whether child protective services has had prior contact with the family.
“The case is continuing to be under investigation,” Chiapete answered after the hearing.
Citing confidentiality issues, the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families said in a written statement Monday that it “cannot confirm or deny that this child is known to the child welfare system.”
During Hunter’s autopsy, “numerous insect bites” — possibly from a bed bug infestation — also were spotted on him, the complaint stated.
The charge is a Class A felony, meaning Johnson could be sentenced to a maximum of life behind bars, plus another six years, if convicted. He was charged as a repeater because of a prior criminal record, according to court records.
In setting Johnson’s bond Monday, Court Commissioner Alice Rudebusch ordered him to have no contact with Hunter’s family.
Assistant State Public Defender Katie Gutowski had asked for “a reasonable cash bond” for Johnson, who she said is a lifelong resident.
Johnson has been in the Racine County Jail since Friday, booking logs show.
His preliminary hearing is May 22.
Hunter’s family did not attend Monday’s court appearance and could not be reached for comment afterward.