BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Last week, the community turned out to help furnish the new apartment of a formerly homeless military veteran and provide toys for his children.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy was there, as were representatives from CityServe and Honor Flight Kern County.
This week, Ralfeal Torrez sits behind bars after being arrested Christmas Day on suspicion of felony child cruelty.
“Now they got me up here like this,” Torrez, 42, said in a jailhouse interview Wednesday with 17 News.
Torrez, who said he recently regained custody of his children, is now barred from seeing them after being issued a criminal protective order following his arrest.
He’s charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of willful cruelty to a child, and also has a pending misdemeanor case on charges of spousal battery and vandalism stemming from a 2017 arrest.
Torrez said he was in a Walmart with his children last week when he grabbed one of his sons by the back of the neck because he wasn’t listening. He said he didn’t mean to harm him but believes he grabbed him too hard.
That child is 8. He’s also accused of hurting his 6-year-old son, who he said suffered a split lip. He said he’s not sure how that child became injured but indicated the kids play rough.
“I would hear them scream ‘so and so is hitting me,’ the only time I really would jump up was when I would hear that there was a knife involved,” Torrez said.
He’s pondering his future as a father.
“Why would I hurt my kids, after all the things that happened why would I hurt them?” he said. “That is what I want to keep asking people, like this isn’t a joke, why would I hurt them? If I win this case I don’t know if I want to keep them or not because what’s gonna happen next time?”
CityServe and Honor Flight representatives confirmed the groups involved with furnishing Torrez’s apartment agreed to take back donations for the veteran and instead donate them to other veterans who are establishing themselves in new housing.
The children get to keep their toys.
Lili Marsh, executive director of Honor Flight Kern County, said California Veterans Assistance Foundation has assured them the items will be given to other veterans if Torrez is convicted.
“This is just an unfortunate outcome, but all the history tells us that this is the exception,” Marsh said of the groups’ efforts to help veterans.
Vanessa Williams of California Veterans Assistance Foundation declined comment when asked if they perform background checks.
Torrez is due back in court Jan. 11.