A jury found a Round Lake Park police officer not guilty of paddling his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter multiple times, causing her to be hospitalized in April.
Waymon G. Vela, 56, of the 21600 block of West Grass Lake Road in unincorporated Antioch, was charged with domestic battery causing bodily harm and domestic battery physical contact.
A Lake County jury deliberated for less than two and a half hours before returning the not guilty verdict on both charges, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said in April that a mandated reporter made a report with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), who then contacted the sheriff’s office.
Detectives began an investigation and learned that Vela reportedly struck his then-girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter ‘numerous times’ on the lower back with a paddle, Lake County Sheriff Sgt. Christopher Covelli said at the time of Vela’s arrest.
The 5-year-old girl was transported to a local hospital for medical treatment and evaluation, Covelli said.
Vela, who was a Round Lake Park police officer, was put on unpaid administrative leave at the time of his arrest, Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko said.
On Thursday, Vela’s defense attorney, Eric Rinehart, told the jury that the girl’s injuries were actually caused by the girl’s mother who paddled her, the Tribune reported.
A speech pathologist at the girl’s school testified on Tuesday that the girl told her ‘daddy had hit her because she wouldn’t stop talking’, the Daily Herald reported.
A forensic interviewer with the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center said at the trial on Wednesday that he interviewed the girl shortly after the incident occurred. The girl told the interviewer that Vela struck her six times with a wooden paddle, the Daily Herald reported.