6-year-old autistic boy on life support after allegedly beaten by mom's boyfriend

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — The Washington County Sheriff's Office says a 6-year-old autistic boy is on life support after he was beaten by his mother's boyfriend.

Defendant Aaron Vanmeter of Hancock was being held on $1 million bail after a hearing Monday in Hagerstown. His public defender didn't immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press.

Vanmeter is charged with first- and second-degree assault and first- and second-degree child abuse for allegedly beating Dustin Barnhart at a home in Hancock Thursday night.

Lt. Gregory Alton says in a sworn statement that Vanmeter acknowledged using excessive discipline, including hitting and kicking, because he gets frustrated when the boy won't listen.

Alton says Vanmeter told him that on Thursday night that he grabbed Dustin forcefully "in an attempt to scare him into being good."

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