A Dallas man has been arrested after police say he regularly punched his girlfriend's children in the stomach, leading to the death of one child and the emergency hospitalization of another.
Police said Wednesday that 27-year-old Clezel Montague Mughni lived in an apartment with 25-year-old Claudia Johnson and her three children, one of whom was identified as 14-month-old Marquis Johnson.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, the boy was taken to Medical City Hospital on Monday by Dallas Fire-Rescue after he became unresponsive. The boy's mother told doctors he hadn't eaten and had recently been vomiting and suffering from diarrhea due to an illness.
On Tuesday, hospital staff declared the boy dead.
That same day, as the investigation into the boy's injuries was beginning, Johnson's 2-year-old daughter underwent emergency surgery after police said she too had been punched in the stomach by Mughni. The girl remains hospitalized and recovering Wednesday.
At some point while talking with police, Johnson's mother changed her story and said she had witnessed her boyfriend, a large man who stands 6 feet 1 inches tall and weighs about 325 pounds, strike her son with a closed fist at least 30 times over a two-month period when he thought the boy was misbehaving. The woman said her boyfriend always struck her son in his stomach or his side.
In an interview with police, Mughni said the boy had been punched in the stomach and spanked a few times for whining.
The Dallas County medical examiner discovered the boy suffered numerous injuries including a skull fracture, multiple rib fractures, both old and new, liver damage, split intestines, two black eyes and multiple injuries to the legs, buttocks and arms. The medical examiner said Johnson's injuries are the result of blunt force trauma and were consistent with the reports from Mughni and the witnesses.
Mughni was arrested without incident on a charge of felony injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, though officials said they will talk with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins about upgrading the charge. Meanwhile, Mughni is being held on $500,000 bond. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.
Mughni has previous arrests for burglary and a probation violation, but no violent offenses and no history with Child Protective Services, police said.
The investigation into the injuries to the 2-year-old girl is ongoing. Officials have not said if Mughni is suspected of abusing Johnson's third child, a 4-year-old girl.
Police said adults who witnessed the abuse and did not intervene may also face charges.
NBC 5's Jeff Smith contributed to this report.