SWEENY - After his 8-year-old stepson missed his school bus earlier this week, Theodore E. Moody told the boy to walk.
And to make sure he didn't dawdle, he followed the child, shocking him repeatedly with a stun gun .
Child welfare officials removed the boy and three other children from Moody's home near this Brazoria County town after learning that he had been disciplining the boy with the battery-powered device.
"I just can't fathom people doing something like this to their own children," sheriff's Capt. Jeff Adkins said Wednesday.
District Attorney Jeri Yenne, who tested the device on herself to understand what the boy felt, said she is awaiting the outcome of an investigation before deciding whether to file charges.
"This is a new one for us," said Estella Olguin, spokeswoman for Children's Protective Services.
Officials at Wild Peach Elementary, in the Columbia-Brazoria school district, contacted authorities Monday after the boy arrived. Adkins said the boy told police his stepfather used the stun gun to punish him for being late to school.
Moody, 27, who recently quit his job as a truck driver, acknowledged Wednesday that he had resorted to the stun gun when other disciplinary methods failed.
"I felt I did the right thing," he said. "The belt didn't work; this did. It hurts less than the belt.
"I've whipped his ass so hard that it left marks. That just didn't send the message and this did."
Moody and his wife have two children, ages 2 and 3 , in addition to the boy and his 11-year-old sister, who are her children from a previous marriage. All four are now in a foster home, Olguin said.
Although parents have the right to use corporal punishment, she said, the methods must be within reason.
"They felt (the stun gun ) was an appropriate form of discipline," she said. "This just seems like a very cruel way to punish a child."
Moody, who moved here several years ago from New York, said he had told his stepson that if he missed his school bus again he would have to walk to school, although it is several miles.
"So we went for a walk and every time he slowed down, I hit him in the ass with (the stun gun )."
He said he had acquired the Panther 100 recently in exchange for a pack of cigarettes. He tested it on himself, his wife and a neighbor before using it on the boy, Moody said.
Moody said his wife drove him and the boy the rest of the way to school after they had walked about a mile and the boy grew tired.
Adkins, the sheriff's captain, said the mother told officers that she does not consider stun -gun jolts a harsh punishment.
Adkins said he has been shocked by a stun gun and likened it to a severe bee sting, followed by temporary paralysis. He said the device usually causes two small, red blisters similar to insect bites.
Yenne, the district attorney, said she wanted to know how much pain a stun gun inflicts.
"I used it on myself because I honestly thought that I needed to know if it caused physical pain and I needed to know what the 8-year-old felt like," she said.
She touched her leg with the device and said it was an unforgettable experience.
"It hurt. It was very uncomfortable," she said. "I don't think I will do it again."
From a prosecutorial standpoint, Yenne said, there are differences between parents who deliberately abuse their children and those who use poor judgment when administering punishment.
"I believe sometimes that well-intentioned people make horrible decisions on discipline," she said.
She added that the expectation of pain was almost worse than the pain itself.
"The apprehension prior to it was probably more excruciating," she said. "It is psychological abuse. This goes to show that some people believe that if you don't leave marks there is no injury. I really believe that was the thought process."
Depending on what the investigation turns up, Yenne said, Moody could be indicted on a third-degree felony of injury to a child.
A court hearing will be held Tuesday to determine whether the children should remain in CPS custody.
Moody said he still believes it was appropriate to use the stun gun , but said he will not use it since police and child welfare officials believe otherwise.
"It's not abuse," he said. "The instructions say that it cannot cause permanent damage. My definition of abuse is some kind of permanent damage, whether it be physical or mental."
The Panther is manufactured by Panther Stun Guns.com, a division of PersonalArms.com of Little Ferry, N.J. Company vice president Nick Cicala said the devices are intended for self-defense but, unfortunately, also are used to attack others.
He said he had never heard of one being used to discipline a child.