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'Bizarre and horrifying scene': Father bound 3yo in packing tape for an hour

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Sun, 31 Mar 2024, 12:33PM

'Bizarre and horrifying scene': Father bound 3yo in packing tape for an hour

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Sun, 31 Mar 2024, 12:33PM

A self-described stressed-out, stay-at-home dad has been sentenced after using packing tape to tie up his 3-year-old son for roughly an hour - a punishment that only stopped after police arrived at the North Shore home and rescued the tightly bound child.

“Why don’t you just let me kill you instead?” the father had yelled at the pre-schooler that same day after finding the child dangling halfway out an upstairs window. “Let me have that joy.”

Up until now, Caleb Brian Pineda-Lyon’s name has been kept secret. But the 31-year-old lost his bid for permanent name suppression and a discharge without conviction as he appeared before Judge Claire Ryan this week in the Auckland District Court.

“The pictures [taken by police] show a bizarre and horrifying scene,” Judge Ryan said as she ordered a sentence of community detention and supervision - an outcome that took into account the four months Pineda-Lyon had already spent in jail awaiting trial.

“This is what a father did to his vulnerable young child ... I do not consider it appropriate that such a conviction should be hidden.”

The abuse occurred in August 2022 after Pineda-Lyon heard the child whimpering and crying in an upstairs bedroom and investigated, finding the child with his top half outside the window and his bottom half inside.

After rescuing the child, the appropriate response would have been to recognise he was “vulnerable, scared and needing a cuddle” - pausing to let the father’s own emotions cool before having a discussion about dangerous behaviour, the judge suggested this week. But instead, she said, “that pressure cooker burst”.

“The defendant grabbed [the preschooler] by his ankle and held him upside down in the air for approximately five seconds,” the agreed summary of facts for the case states. “The defendant then threw [him] one metre on to his bed. The defendant went over to [the boy] and slapped him across the face.”

The child’s mother tried to intervene and protect the boy. The defendant, however, pushed her away by the throat and told her not to make it about herself, court documents state. She carried the child to another room and attempted to shield him from the defendant, but Pindea-Lyon followed and punched them both.

“[The boy] was screaming, crying and telling the defendant to stop,” court documents state, adding that Pineda-Lyon slapped both victims and told them “they needed to sit upstairs and think about what they’ve done”.

The mother later went downstairs to get ice for the child’s face, at which point Pineda-Lyon remained behind, yelling at the boy and lambasting him with what the judge described as “cruel and callous remarks”, including calling him stupid.

“If you want to climb out the window and kill yourself, why don’t you just let me do it?” he yelled at the child. “Why don’t you just let me kill you instead? Let me have that joy. Instead of taking that joy away from me, why don’t you let me do it instead, the both of you?”

It’s at that point Pineda-Lyon began wrapping the masking tape around the child’s arms, waist, thighs, knees and ankles. The child was still bound when police arrived about an hour later. He had red marks and indentations on his arms from the tape when it was removed, as well as red marks and abrasions on his face from being hit. The child’s mother also suffered a cut to her lower lip from being slapped.

The physical injuries were not permanent, but the attack would have had a longer-lasting psychological impact on the victims, the judge said.

“The emotional trauma by a parent’s breach of trust is significant,” she explained.

Pineda-Lyon initially denied the representative charges of injuring with intent to injure, which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and assault on a person in a family relationship, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. But he pleaded guilty last year.

Pineda-Lyon told authorities he had been having trouble dealing with the stress of being a stay-at-home parent and had begun smoking cannabis while watching the children in a misguided effort to be a better, less tense parent. He was under the influence at the time of the incident, which he now realises affected his judgment, his lawyer said.

“This has been a very sobering experience for him,” defence lawyer Sue Kim told the judge. “He dearly misses his children. He’s taken steps to make sure he is a better person and better father ... It’s not been an easy journey.”

The judge responded: “That’s the tragic consequence of treating a 3-year-old like that. There’s issues of safety. He’s going to have to earn their trust back.”

Crown prosecutor Helen Brown opposed the defendant’s requests for permanent name suppression and a discharge without conviction, arguing that the gravity of the offending was too high. The mother of the child was also opposed to both requests, stating it was important others considering a relationship with the defendant could have a full picture of what happened.

Judge Ryan said there is no doubt the defendant loves his children and feels bad about how he reacted, and there’s no doubt that he has taken courses hoping to improve himself so he can re-establish the relationships. She also noted the defendant now has a steady job and a reputation for a strong work ethic.

She also considered as mitigating factors his guilty pleas, an apology letter, his work to address addiction issues and the fact he had no family violence convictions before or after the offending - although police had responded to family violence callouts on numerous occasions that didn’t result in charges.

But those don’t overcome the principles of open justice, she said, explaining that the public deserves to know how the courts deal with family violence given the “scourge” of such cases in New Zealand.

In discussions with lawyers prior to her decision, the judge noted that it was understandable the defendant would want to conceal his admittedly appalling behaviour towards his son. But in a way, she reckoned, it might be good for his son to some day see an account of what happened in the aftermath of the traumatic experience.

“The child needs to know and understand what his father did was wrong,” Judge Ryan explained. “... It wasn’t his fault.”

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.

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