Police: Crying child attacked in Wal-Mart

STONE MOUNTAIN - A Wal-Mart shopper was so incensed by a fussy little girl this week he slapped the child - a total stranger - several times in the face, police said.

The alleged attack happened Monday morning in the frozen foods section of the Stone Mountain store on Rockbridge Road.

Moments prior, Roger Phillip Stephens, 61, of Stone Mountain, had warned the child and her mother "If you don't shut that baby up, I'll shut her up for you," according to a police report.

The child, Paige Mathews, 2, continued bawling, despite her mother's attempts to calm her. Stephens approached them again near the store's freezers and slapped the girl four or five times across the face as she stood beside her mother, the report says.

After Stephens finished, he stated, "See, I told you I would shut her up," the report says.

Paige's mother, Sonya Mathews, a Grayson stay-at-home mom, screamed at Stephens and called for security. She said Stephens tried to walk nonchalantly away but was stopped by another patron.

"Nervously, he was saying he just couldn't shop because the baby was crying all over the store," Mathews said Tuesday. "I got the feeling he was mentally disturbed."

Stephens reportedly admitted to the attack when police arrived. Charged with felony cruelty to children in the first degree, he remains at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman said officers from her department arrested Stephens on DUI charges in 1999 but have not dealt with him otherwise.

"I don't know of any indications of mental illness," Spellman said.

Stephens is scheduled to appear in a bond hearing Tuesday.

Police noted the toddler sustained "slight redness" to her face. Gwinnett County Fire Department personnel evaluated and released her at the scene.

Sonya Mathews said her daughter's injuries don't appear serious, but she isn't ruling out psychological scarring.

"She's frightened," Mathews said. "She's usually the nicest kid. Since this incident ... she hasn't been dealing with anyone. She's very talkative, and she's hasn't been talking much at all."