Trial shifts to defense for Whitehouse woman accused of child abuse

With the state resting its case Wednesday afternoon, Cheryl Layne’s defense counsel began calling witnesses this morning.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 12:08 PM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 4:59 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - With the state resting its case Wednesday afternoon, Cheryl Layne’s defense counsel began calling witnesses this morning.

Layne, 46, of Whitehouse was arrested in 2019 on allegations that she physically abused her twin adopted sons, who were in their early teens at the time. The alleged abuse included beatings with a leather belt, whippings with archery arrows and being shoved into a wall. During testimony on Wednesday, one of the sons testified that he and his brother were made to do hard physical labor as forms of punishment. The sons both testified that the alleged abuse they endured left bruises and markings on their bodies, to the point where they say they were encouraged by a friend to speak out. The boys said they were fearful to do so because they said Layne threatened to kill them if they told Child Protective Services.

Dr. Wesley Pemberton was first to be called to the stand. Layne works as a nurse practitioner and Pemberton, who said he was being paid to appear as a witness, serves as her supervisor. Pemberton told the defense that it is his medical opinion that there’s no way to specifically determine what object caused the bruises or how long they had been there when observed by investigators. Pemberton agreed that it’s possible the bruises were just as likely to be sustained from playing football or other sports at school as it was for them to originate from physical abuse.

Pemberton also said that looking at one of the son’s medical records, it’s entirely possible that the nosebleed allegedly caused by his head being forcefully pushed into a trashcan was instead caused by allergies. Pemberton also testified that a police officer’s observations cannot also be equal to a medical determination.

When cross-examined by the state, Pemberton acknowledged that he was being paid $100 by the defense for his appearance as a witness. He also acknowledged that he only viewed photographs of the boys’ injuries and did not perform an in-person physical examination. Pemberton also agreed that a physician is who ultimately makes a diagnosis, not a nurse. He also agreed that one of the boys’ records did not show he had “medical shiners,” which the defense had previously argued could be a possible cause of what appeared to be eye injuries allegedly caused by the boys’ adoptive father. However, Pemberton maintained that there is no medical certainty the observed injuries came from abusive force and could have originated from any number of other things.

The defense’s next witness was one of Layne’s biological daughters, who is also older than the twin boys. She testified that she lived in that specific house in Whitehouse for 10 years and disagreed with much of how one of the boys described life there. She said she disagreed that the boys were ever intentionally “segregated” from the other children, or that they were ever “treated like slaves” as was described. She said that “everyone had to do chores” and that all kids received corporal punishment such as spankings. She said that the son who claims he got a nosebleed after their father shoved his face into a garbage can with leftover food in it was known to frequently get nosebleeds not caused by physical force.

When cross-examined by the state, the daughter said she did not think that sustaining marks on your body from corporal punishment should be considered “excessive” and that she did not witness the alleged incident where Layne whipped the boys with arrows. She said she was told by her mother to pick out clothes for the boys to wear the next day, but denies they were dirty and ill-fitting, as was previously alleged by the boys’ own testimony and were instead well-fitted and clean. She also said that her own bruises may not have come from corporal punishment. However, the state rebutted this by producing statements by her from a 2019 interview where she said she received bruises on her posterior as a result of her mother spanking her.

When the defense resumed questioning, they asked the daughter if she was ever abused by her mother. She said she was not. She also claimed that both boys were known to not be truthful.

Layne was then passed to the state for cross examination. She was asked how many licks is too many, and at first she appeared at a loss for an answer before responding that it is an arbitrary question.

“I don’t know. 20? 10,” Layne said. She later admitted that she had given 10 and even 20 licks to one of her children. The instance of 20 licks was done in instances of five at a time when she was attempting to get her daughter to unlock a cellphone due to what Layne described as a safety concern.

Layne testified that the marks on one of her sons’ posterior and his back and any from his left hip were from her licks she gave. She said she doesn’t think that bruises or marks from a belt is an indicator of excessive discipline and claimed that both boys lied under oath during their testimony and deposition. She insisted that they both lied at every opportunity.

When asked if the detectives and investigators who examined the boys were wrong in their conclusions, she said they “had a job to do and they did it, and at some points the checks and balances got out of hand.”

The state asked if Layne believes that people should believe her or the investigators, she said “At the end of the day I don’t care who they believe, as long as they hear my story.”

State said that in all of her testimony about disciplining her kids, it was never stated that she was doing so out of love. Layne said she loves her kids enough to let them know when they’re doing wrong.

When passed back to the defense, Layne said that the appropriate number of licks is dependent upon what they did, what the motive for doing it was.

“Anybody that knows us knows we love our kids,” Layne said.

Layne admitted that she is estranged from both her sons but grew tearful when asked what she would do in the past to show she loved them.

“I would hold him and comfort him. I would go to all of his games and support him in everything he would do. Anything that would help them find who they are supposed to be,” she said.

Previous reporting:

Foster son testifies in trial of Whitehouse woman accused of child abuse