A 5-year-old boy was hit and killed by a car in Alabama this week, after he was forced to exit a car on a busy highway as punishment for "acting up," Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told CBS News.
Taylor said the child, Austin Birdseye, was in the car Saturday night with his mother's boyfriend, who was driving on an "exceptionally dangerous road" when he forced the child out of the car.
That night, state troopers and the Russell County Sheriff's Department responded to calls about a pedestrian being hit on Highway 165. "Once we got there, we realized that it was a young child who had walked out into the road," Taylor told CBS News on Tuesday.
The responding officers soon found out how the child ended up on that busy highway, Taylor said. Bryan Starr, who is in a relationship with Austin's mother but is not his biological father, had taken the boy on a drive to "calm him down" after he acted up at home, the sheriff said.
"He was still acting out and so Mr. Starr pulled off the road and told him to get out of the car," Taylor continued. "Now, this is 8:00 at night, it's raining, it's cold and he tells the child to get out of the car."
When the boy got out of the car and started walking, Starr lost sight of him, Taylor said, "And the next thing he knows, he walked out into a very busy four-lane and gets hit by an oncoming vehicle." Austin died later at the hospital.
"This boyfriend has been charged with murder," Taylor said. "He has been arrested and is out on bond."
Taylor said Starr is in the military and is stationed at the Fort Benning in Georgia, which borders Russell County, Alabama.
The sheriff said Starr could face 20 years to life in prison if convicted.
"I definitely think Mr. Starr made a bad decision," Taylor said. "I can understand trying to discipline a child — I don't understand putting a child out in the rain and losing sight of the child. That's what is just mind-boggling to me. I don't know what he was thinking."
Taylor said Starr lives off of Highway 165 and "knows how congested that road is."
"For him to put a child out in the area on purpose and intentionally tell the child to get out of the car, I'm struggling following the mindset there," Taylor said. "I hope it serves as a lesson to parents. There's way to discipline your child... but we have to do it the right way and we can't do it in a way that's going to potentially bring harm."
The sheriff, who was not at the scene, said deputies reported Starr was remorseful. "They said you could tell he was upset. I don't know that was certainly his intent originally to do that, but his actions caused the death, ultimately, with Austin."
Taylor said he was going to speak to Austin's mother, whom he did not name, again on Tuesday. He said he can't imagine what the mother is going through.