Foster son testifies in trial of Whitehouse woman accused of child abuse

The alleged victims of a woman accused of abusing her twin foster sons took the witness stand Tuesday morning.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 11:12 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The alleged victims of a woman accused of abusing her twin foster sons took the witness stand Tuesday morning.

The son, who was in his early teens in September 2013 when the alleged incidents occurred, testified that Cheryl Layne and her husband were responsible for multiple instances of abuse. The first incident he described took place after he said Layne became angry at how dirty the room was that he shared with his twin. The son said Layne grabbed his twin by the hair and smashed his face into a wall before throwing him to the ground. When Layne returned to the room sometime later, the son said she grabbed archery arrows and began whipping the boys with them, telling them to work faster. The son said they were left with bruises and and red marks on their arms and back. The son said Layne returned a third time and told the boys they “don’t deserve” to be in the room and made them swap rooms with other siblings. The son said he “felt pain” watching his brother get hit.

Another incident described by the son took place after Layne and her husband returned from eating out. The son said his twin and their siblings did not eat with their parents and instead ate at home. The son said it was his responsibility that night for cleaning up the kitchen, so he threw away leftover food in the garbage can. However, when his parents returned home, the son said his father saw the food in the garbage can and smashed the boy’s face into it multiple times, allegedly resulting in a nosebleed, leaving blood on his face, the floor and on the food in the garbage can. The boy said he felt “hurt, ashamed and disappointed” in himself.

The son said his father then called Layne to come downstairs, at which point his mother observed he was bleeding and crying and said “it’s my turn for the beating, go get the belt.” “Discipline with a belt” was described as a regular occurrence in the house. The son said he retrieved a belt from his father’s closet and was instructed to pull his pants down. He said his mother proceeded to hit him on his back, arm, neck, rear end and bare skin. The son said he ran away to make the beating stop and that there were marks on his back, arms and neck. The son said Layne then grabbed the food out of the garbage can and told him that he had to eat the food before he was allowed to go to sleep that night.

The son said he was forced to wear worn out clothes to school the next day as a form of punishment. He said he went to the bathroom at school with his brother and a friend to observe his injuries, at which point the friend convinced the boys to speak up about what happened. The son said he and his brother were afraid to do so because he said Layne threatened to kill them if they notified Child Protective Services. The boys ultimately notified a school counselor, nurse and school police office.

Photographs of the bruises and house were shown, as were the arrows, pillows and belt.

As the defense began cross-exmaination, they argued the witness should be dismissed due to allegedly biased answers. The defense claimed the son was known to have been in possession of steroids on July 16, 2022, and to have committed a burglary to steal beer. The son said he was aware of the accusations and that they could lead to criminal prosecution, but insisted those factors didn’t bias his testimony today.

The second foster son spoke next. He said being hit with the archery arrow was not a routine occurrence -- that it was what Layne found to use on that particular day, when she allegedly said they would get less beatings if they quit football. He also spoke about the incident in which Layne’s husband allegedly held one of the sons down over the garbage can, yelling about wasting food. The second son said he saw the incident, and watched Layne give his brother “a whooping,” telling him to “stop moving, stop screaming.” He said he didn’t feel good when he saw it happening.

The twin who was testifying said he saw the marks on his brother’s back, thighs and arm that night, which made him feel so afraid he wondered if he needed to find somewhere to go. He reiterated that the boys were required to wear old clothes that weren’t theirs to school the next day: old work shoes with broken laces and shorts, despite the cold.

When he was called into the counselor’s office, he said his fear and anxiety “shot through the roof,” to the point he couldn’t control his shaking. “I couldn’t speak, and it felt like my throat was about to explode,” the boy said.

During cross-examination, the defense pursued greater specificity from the son, asking about incidences of “pushing” versus “shoving,” along with how many times and where the boys were hit with the arrow. The defense attempted to contrast the son’s current description with testimony he gave during a deposition two years ago. They showed diagrams of a bedroom, asking the son where each person was when the arrow hitting incident happened.

The defense also asked about non-corporal punishment, and the son said they had been required to work on fences or the barn, even in extreme heat, and had been barred from seeing friends. The son claimed the parents never worked outside on the harder tasks.

He also described feeling hatred towards Layne’s biological children since he and his brother were allegedly treated differently. The defense asked if there were other ways the boys were treated unequally, in relation to vacations or summer camp, and the son said yes, there were.

A technical supervisor from a DNA testing lab then spoke about blood samples taken from a pillow and the home’s laundry room floor, which she said tested positive for DNA shared by the twins. She said the kitchen floor swab tested negative for blood, and confirmed for the defense that there is no way to determine how old a blood sample may be or what caused a person to bleed in the first place.

The state then rested.