Grand jury indicts man on child cruelty charges in Walmart slapping

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Stone Mountain man who attracted international scorn for allegedly slapping a fussy toddler in Walmart last summer still languishes in jail.

A Gwinnett grand jury indicted Roger Stephens, 61, this week on a count of felony child cruelty, two months after he reportedly slapped 2-year-old Paige Mathews, the child of a complete stranger.

The indictment alleges Stephens caused the child "excessive physical and mental pain" by slapping her multiple times. Police said the child suffered slight redness to her face but no serious injuries.

The alleged attack happened Aug. 31 in the frozen foods section of a Stone Mountain store on Rockbridge Road.

Police said Stephens had warned the child's mother, "If you don't shut that baby up, I'll shut her up for you," then returned moments later to proclaim, "See, I told you I would shut her up," authorities said.

The child's mother said Stephens tried to walk nonchalantly away but was stopped by another patron. He reportedly admitted slapping the girl when police arrived.

Records show a Gwinnett Superior Court judge denied Stephens bond on Oct. 8, declaring him a danger to the community. It was unclear Thursday when Stephens could enter a plea to the charges at an arraignment.

His attorney, Melvin Nash, was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, a representative said.

News of the incident created an international stir over parental supervision.

In the wake of Gwinnett police allegations, media outlets from New York to New Zealand published accounts of the story, with many readers scorning Stephens in online postings.