RICHLAND HILLS, Texas — A North Texas man carved a large pentagram into his 6-year-old son's back Wednesday, telling a 911 dispatcher that he did it because "it's a holy day," police said.
In a matter-of-fact tone, Brent Troy Bartel told a dispatcher, "I shed some innocent blood," according to a copy of the recording of his early Wednesday morning 911 call released by Richland Hills police. After the dispatcher said, "I'm sorry?" he repeated those words, then said he inscribed a pentagram on his son. When the dispatcher asked why, Bartel said, "because it's a holy day" before hanging up.
At the family's modest one-story home in the Fort Worth suburb, some neighbors said they were shocked that Bartel was accused of injuring his son but that they didn't know the private family well. Smeared blood could be seen on the front door frame, put there by Bartel, Richland Hills police said.
It's unclear what Bartel meant about the day or why he used a pentagram, a five-sided star that's a symbol for many pagan groups.
Wednesday's date is 12-12-12, a once-in-a-century event. The Mayan calendar's end is Dec. 21, 2012, or 12-21-12, said to portend the end of the world, but some have interpreted that as 12-12-12. Also, Catholics celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
Bartel, 39, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was jailed in lieu of $500,000 bond. He did not yet have an attorney, police Sgt. Nathan Stringer said.
Richland Hills officers found the child with his back almost entirely covered with a large pentagram. The wounds bled a lot but were not deep enough to require stitches, Stringer said. The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.
Police also recovered a box cutter they believe was used to cut the boy, he said.
Police plan to order a mental evaluation for Bartel, which will not affect the charges against him but will determine if he should be placed in a mental health unit in jail.
His mother, Lori Ponce, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that her son does not have a history of mental illness but has recently been under a lot of stress.
"Brent is not a demon. ... He loves that boy," Ponce said. "Something happened. Don't paint him as some crazy man. No, that's not him."
His stepfather told the newspaper that Bartel was "deep into the Old Testament" and may have convoluted some biblical references about Passover, a weeklong Jewish commemoration of the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt that occurs in March or April.
"If you know about the Old Testament, there's the Passover marks on the door frame (that) were done with a sacrificial lamb, definitely not sacrificial children," John Ponce said.
As officers were headed to the scene after Bartel's chilling call, a neighbor also called 911, saying a woman was outside her door and telling her something was going on at her house. The child's mother could be heard on the recording saying, "He's trying to hurt my 6-year-old" and "Please hurry! Oh, God!"
When the dispatcher talked to the boy's mother directly and asked whether her husband had weapons, she said she had taken one knife but there were a lot of knives in the house.
Richland Hills police have responded to a few domestic calls involving verbal arguments at the home in the past four or five years, Stringer said.