Man accused of pulling out 3 of autistic 4-year-old's teeth

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A man watching a 4-year-old autistic boy for his live-in girlfriend severely beat the child, including pulling three of his teeth out, and left him bleeding and crying overnight, authorities in Pennsylvania alleged Monday.

Nicholas Kernechel, 27, of East Greenville was charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child and related offenses.

The child's visibly upset mother brought him to Upper Perkiomen police in July with "severe facial and dental injuries" and missing three teeth. She also handed officers a plastic bag containing the teeth, authorities said.

"The teeth were bloody but intact, from the tooth through the top of the root," authorities said in a statement.

Police allege that the child was in sole care of Kernechel when he was injured, and a subsequent medical examination indicated that his "teeth were pulled out."

After the child was injured, Kernechel left the child in his bed "bleeding and crying" and didn't tell the mother until she arrived home the following morning, authorities alleged. She found the boy "asleep on the floor, lying on top of dried blood," authorities said.

The boy, identified only as "JN," told investigators that Kernechel caused the injuries to his teeth.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman called the case "one of the most horrific cases of child abuse that we've seen in a very long time," The (Pottstown) Mercury reported.

The child's teeth were "physically extracted, removed from his mouth, forcefully" and afterward the defendant "left him to suffer overnight until the morning when his mother found him and saw what had been done," Ferman said.

Defense attorney Patrick McMenamin Jr. on Monday called the child's injuries "an unfortunate accident."

His client, he said, was helping the boy get out of bed to use the bathroom and the child slipped and fell, apparently hitting his head on a bedside table and the floor.

Kernechel "did not abuse the child and intends to establish that at trial," he said.