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Father, stepmother indicted on charges connected to girl’s death

Police say the 6-year-old and her twin sister were physically abused in their home for not eating fast enough and for wetting the bed.
Bryan police say the twin girls were repeatedly injured by their father, Justin Joel Hopper,...
Bryan police say the twin girls were repeatedly injured by their father, Justin Joel Hopper, 29, and their stepmother, Jessica Bundren, 40, who reportedly used a belt and homemade wooden paddle to punish the children.(KBTX)
Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 2:52 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - A Brazos County grand jury has indicted the father of a little girl who was allegedly beaten to death, along with her stepmother.

Jessica Bundren, 40, and Justin Hopper, 29, are both indicted on two counts of Injury to a Child with intent to cause bodily injuries.

Both remain in jail on bonds totaling $250,000 each. Hopper is also being held on a $25,000 bond for a 2017 warrant for an Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon case.

The child abuse charges are connected to the death investigation of Arianna Rose Battelle, 6, of Bryan. She died on Tuesday, October 7 inside her home on Garden Acres.

Police said Arianna had contusions over both eyes that extended to her cheeks as well as red contusions on her forehead and side of her head and torso. Investigators say the marks appeared to be welts from a belt along with small puncture marks on the child’s body. Both her legs were also bruised.

After searching the home, authorities say they found a belt that had a slot on the end with metal rivets. They say the belt’s features matched the injuries on the girl.

Bundren admitted to striking the child with a belt for wetting the bed.

During their investigation, police spoke with Arianna’s twin sister, who also showed signs of physical abuse. According to the report, the unnamed child “appeared to be in pain and moved with difficulty. She had a black eye on her left eye and a scab on the left side of her neck.”

She also had two broken fingers from when her father used a wooden paddle to strike her hand, according to an arrest report.

In a probable cause affidavit, police said the surviving twin described how she and her sister would be punished if they didn’t eat her lunch fast enough. The child said Bundren and Hopper would use a belt and paddle for the punishment, and Bundren would slap her in the face.

According to Bryan police, Hopper tried to say he knew nothing about the abuse but a search of his cell phone revealed photos and text messages between the couple that showed both were aware of the children’s injuries.

Police said some of the images on the phone were sent to Hopper mainly while he was away from the house, to show him that the girls were being uncooperative with Bundren, especially during mealtime and homework time.

“He knew about the marks and abuse because he was updated, almost daily, with photos of the girls,” said police in their report.

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