VALPARAISO | A 35-year-old Valparaiso man was arrested Wednesday evening on a battery charge after another motorist claimed to have seen him repeatedly striking a teen relative while driving along a local stretch of Ind. 49.
Frank Pepin, of 186 Virginia Court, was charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a potential sentence of up to one year behind bars, according to Porter County police.
The witness told police he was driving north along Ind. 49 at 6:19 p.m. in the area of the 49er Drive-In when he saw a man in a black Ford Focus swing at the head area of a young female sitting in the front passenger seat. He said the man then grabbed the girl's head and pulled it toward the center console.
The witness said he pulled up alongside the car and mouthed to the crying female if she was OK, police said. The girl reportedly said no and he contacted police and stuck with the vehicle until it was pulled over near U.S. 20.
The girl reportedly told police Pepin pulled the vehicle over and struck her in the face nearly hard enough to knock out a contact lens. He continued yelling at her while driving, pinched her so hard she could not feel her leg, punched her in the face, pulled her hair, slammed her head into the "air bag thingy" and repeatedly hit her arm, police said.
Pepin told police he was driving the girl to her mother's house when an argument broke out about. When the girl looked out the window, he told police he slapped her arm several times with the back of his open hand, at which time she attempted to slap his face, causing him to swerve and nearly strike another vehicle.
After failing to grab the girl's phone, Pepin said he grabbed the back of her shirt and pushed her head toward the door, police said. He told police he then pulled over and the two threw each others' phones out of the vehicle.
After the phones were collected, Pepin said he resumed driving and told the girl he would hit her in the mouth if she mouthed off again, police said. He told police the girl uttered foul language, at which time he slapped her mouth and grabbed her hair by mistake while attempting to push her toward the door.
Pepin was instructed to avoid the girl for 10 days following his release from jail or until he sees a judge, police said. Child Protective Services was contacted.