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Court upholds criminal conviction over parents’ physical ‘tug of war’ with child

By: - September 23, 2021 2:25 pm

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a child endangerment conviction in a case involving a 6-year-old boy who was subjected to a literal, physical tug of war between his divorced parents. (Creative Commons photo via

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a child endangerment conviction in a case involving a 6-year-old boy who was subjected to a literal, physical tug of war between his divorced parents.

The ruling stems from the appeal of Charles Tewes of Milford, who claims there was insufficient evidence to support his 2020 conviction on the child endangerment charge.

According to court records, Tewes and his ex-wife, Jennifer Struve, had two children, an 11-year-old boy with the initials T.T., and a 6-year-old boy with the initials B.T.

On June 14, 2019, Struve took the children to the Boji Junction convenience store in Milford to hand the boys over to Tewes for his scheduled visitation. While at the store, T.T. decided he did not want to spend the weekend with his father, which led to Struve telling Tewes and B.T. to have a good time but that she would not be forcing T.T. to go.

Tewes allegedly became angry and began arguing with Struve and yelling at store patrons. Struve took B.T.’s hand and began walking toward the store exit with both boys. Before they reached the door, Tewes grabbed B.T.’s free arm and pulled him in the opposite direction. One of the customers in the store later testified Tewes was “squeezing hard enough to leave bruises on the kid” and B.T. was lifted off the ground from the pulling.

The customer described the scene as a literal “tug of war” with B.T. as the rope. After Struve released B.T., Tewes picked him up and spun away from his ex-wife, holding B.T. by his bottom half. Struve then grabbed hold of the top half of the child’s body. “Each parent was holding part of B.T., who was aloft with his body parallel to the ground several feet above the tile floor,” the Court of Appeals stated in its ruling. “Then Tewes wrenched B.T. from Jennifer’s grasp.”

The police were called, and Tewes was arrested and charged with child endangerment. At trial, prosecutors admitted into evidence a video from the convenience store, which showed the entire interaction between Tewes, Struve and the children. One of the store’s patrons testified he thought it was a “traumatic incident” for the children.

Tewes was found guilty of child endangerment and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

In ruling on his appeal, the Court of Appeals noted that for Tewes to be guilty of the crime, he had to have acted with knowledge that he was creating a substantial risk to B.T.’s physical, mental, or emotional health.

“We are convinced substantial evidence supports Tewes’s conviction for child endangerment,” the court ruled. “Tewes’  struggle with Jennifer to gain hold of B.T., during which the child was several feet above hard ground, put B.T.’s physical health and safety at risk.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.