A man who won permanent custody of his 2-year-old grandson last week in a bitter fight with his own son was charged Wednesday with assaulting two other children in Snohomish.
Bill Dwayne Wheeler, 47, allegedly beat two stepchildren, a girl, 10, and a boy, 12, with a belt last May. He allegedly beat the boy again in March, according to charging papers filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Wheeler, of Las Vegas, said the two alleged victims are the children of his ex-wife, who lives in Snohomish.
His family law attorney, Ken Brewe of Everett, said someone in his office will represent Wheeler in the criminal matter.
"We have no comment about the allegations until we can investigate them and see what’s being said," Brewe said Wednesday.
Wheeler was described as the parent primarily responsible for punishing the children when they misbehaved, deputy prosecutor Kathy Jo Kristof said in court papers.
"The defendant punishes the children by slapping them in the face, whipping them with a belt and making them chew on soap," she said. "At times, the defendant makes the children beat each other at his direction."
He is charged with third-degree assault of a child, a felony, for an incident on May 13, 2003. He was also charged with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor, in relation to the March incident.
The two children got into a verbal dispute in May, and Wheeler punished them by slapping both across the face and making them chew on soap, Kristof said. Then he whipped them across the buttocks with a belt before making them beat each other with the belt, Kristof said.
After that, Kristof said, he directed an older daughter to whip her younger sister with the belt. The older daughter "was afraid to refuse the defendant, so she complied with his demands," Kristof said.
The 10-year-old girl went to a school counselor the next day and told about the beatings. The counselor and a sheriff’s deputy saw the girl’s bruises, one as big as a dollar bill, Kristof said.
The children’s mother claimed she had inflicted the injuries, but police said the children were clear that Wheeler did it.
The children were taken into protective custody, but were returned home later. Kristof said the beatings continued. On March 23, the boy was given the choice of being hit with a hanger or a belt, Kristof said.
The children were taken out of the home a second time after that incident.
One of the children told police that she would rather go to a foster home than remain with Wheeler once he had learned she told police about the abuse, Kristof said.
Kristof asked the court to order Wheeler to have no contact with the witnesses, including the children’s mother.
Wheeler won a round in a court last week when a judge in Lincoln County refused to overturn the adoption of his 2-year-old grandson.
Bill Wheeler Jr., 20, an Air Force police officer stationed in Japan, accused his father of forging his name on papers that allowed an uncontested adoption in the Eastern Washington town of Davenport.
Both sides brought in handwriting experts to testify, and the Lincoln County judge found that the younger Wheeler didn’t meet his burden of proof that the signatures were a fraud.
The younger Wheeler and his family members said they will ask the Lincoln County judge to reconsider his decision.
The elder Wheeler will be summoned to appear in court for arraignment on the assault charges, Kristof said.
Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or email@example.com.