GALVESTON — As a father grew to hate his son, he punished the child by forcing the boy to live in a locked 8-foot by 6-foot particleboard box in their Galveston home for hours and days at a time, prosecutors said Tuesday.
David Wieseckel, 44, is also accused of making his son, who was then 9 years old, do hundreds of pushups, choking the child and on one occasion extinguishing a lit cigarette on his foot.
Wieseckel has pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in Las Vegas with his wife last April after being indicted on charges of unlawful restraint of a child and three counts of injury to a child.
The boy’s mother, 50-year-old Linda Schwan, faces a trial in a Galveston County courtroom later this year.
In opening statements Tuesday, Galveston County Assistant District Attorney Adam Poole said Wieseckel meted out excessive punishment to his son, a “difficult child” diagnosed with several mental disorders, sometimes for no reason at all.
“This case has absolutely nothing to do with discipline,” Poole told the jurors. “I’m going to prove to you that this case is about hate.”
The boy ran away from home in July 2012 to escape “a relationship of abuse and a relationship of hate,” Poole said.
Jurors will be shown a video lasting more than 2 hours that shows the child being forced to do 814 push-ups and photos of the child with the word “liar” drawn in black ink all over his body, Poole said.
During the video, the boy collapses 191 times and repeatedly begs family members to allow him to stop or use the restroom, Poole said.
Nicholas Poehl, who is representing Wieseckel, said the box in the family’s home in the 1800 block of Bayou Homes Drive served as the child’s room and was outfitted with a bed, a dresser and a desk.
The furniture was removed only when the child destroyed it, and he was locked in only when his behavior required it, Poehl said.
Poehl said Wieseckel had worked to help his son, who went to live with his father and stepmother after his biological mother was sent to prison, by putting the child in therapy and visiting doctors.
The child heard voices that urged him to kill his father and stepmother in their sleep, Poehl said. He also said the boy sometimes kept knives in his room and was restrained for the safety of the family.
Wieseckel was open with doctors, teachers and others about the calisthenics he required the child to do as punishment as well as about the particleboard box he built in the laundry room for his son.
“He wasn’t hiding anything he was doing,” Poehl said.
Poehl said the child was violent, disturbed and had a history of lying to doctors and investigators.
He urged the jury to avoid judging Wieseckel as a father.
“It’s not about whether (Wieseckel) is a good parent,” Poehl said. “It’s about whether the state can prove there was a crime.”
Galveston police officers testified Tuesday about discovering the particleboard box in the home after Wieseckel and Schwan reported the child as missing.
A U.S. Secret Service member testified about discovering several videos depicting the child in the box on computers belonging to Wieseckel and his wife.
The particleboard box will be assembled in the courtroom for jurors to observe today, prosecutors said, when the trial resumes in the 405th District Court.