John Arndt pleaded guilty Monday to one count of injury to a child or elderly person with mental impairment and received a 45 year sentence.
That is just five years shorter than the sentence his wife, Jennifer Arndt, received earlier this month when she pleaded guilty to the same charge in connection with the death of the couple’s 12-year-old son who suffered from mental illness.
Both parents admitted that they used withholding of food as a punishment when the child acted out.
In court on Monday, Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Nathan Young said that in February 2018, the child was in a mental health facility and he put on some weight. He weighed 65 lbs.
By October of that same year, the child weighed only 35 pounds. He died shortly after his mother took him to Texoma Medical Center on Oct. 12 after he had suffered seizures and passed out.
Young asked John Arndt why he didn’t seek treatment for his son who was literally wasting away from the punishment scheme the parents were using.
Arndt replied that he was working two jobs and periodically saw Christopher. Young argued that Ardnt was home enough to see the changes in his son.
Previously published reports show that Denison police received a call on Oct. 12 from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services regarding a 12 year old boy who was brought to Texoma Medical Center with significant injuries and malnutrition. The family of the child lived in a residence in the 1300 block of West Woodard Street.
The child was treated locally, but transported to Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where he was pronounced dead on Oct. 17.
John Arndt said in court that he had relinquished his rights to his three daughters as has his wife. Authorities have said the children have been sent to live in a relative out of state.
Attorneys horrified at the abuse
Both the defense attorney and the prosecutors said this case was one of the worst they have ever worked.
“I have been doing this for 30 years,” said Arndt’s defense attorney Joe N. Smith. “And this is at least in the top three most horrific situation I have had to deal with. I think that the outcome was more than fair and its just a tragedy that that little boy lost his life the way he did.”
Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith agreed that the case was a rough one.
“I think it was an appropriate sentence. This is the same plea offer we made Jennifer, she just choose to go open to the judge,” Brett Smith said. “Her sentencing really shined a little light on the gravity of the situation.”
Brett Smith said the husband and wife were lucky they got the deals that they did.
“I think a Grayson County jury or Grayson County jury would given them both life,” Smith said.
Young said thought the case was hard to take, it was worth while in the end because they were able to get justice for Christopher.
“This is one of those cases you hope never happens, but when it ends up on your desk or have a detective or law enforcement calling you, it’s one of those cases that you want to give 110 percent effort to to make sure that the offenders of something this horrific are brought to justice,” Young said.
One of the things that did come out in the investigation was that John Arndt was a man who was working outside the home for 80 to 100 hours a week. Young said John Arndt was certainly working hard to support his family while his wife was in charge of the children.
“But at the end of the day, both parents are equally responsible for well being of their child,” he said. “And the law prevents any parent from sticking their head in the sand like an ostrich and going ‘well it’s the other parent’s problem.’”
Smith said this was a preventable situation.
“Help in this day and age is a Google search or a phone call away,” Brett Smith said. “Whether its drug addiction or mental health — we have a crisis team at Texoma Community Center, we have a treatment center for youth now at TMC. we have a hospital in Greenville.”