The father of a 4-year-old boy tossed him from their car "like a bag of garbage" as they drove along a cactus-lined West Texas highway in the middle of the night, police said.
The child, with bruises on his neck and more than 500 cactus spines in his body, was discovered cowering on the side of Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas, around 3 a.m.
"I've seen a lot of bad things," Sweetwater Police Chief Jim Kelley told the Abilene Reporter-News. "This is absolutely a first. I've never seen a 4-year-old angel left on the side of the road for dead."
Carlos Rico, 22, was arrested hours after the little boy was rescued early Tuesday by a local high school basketball coach. Rico was charged with child endangerment and held on $50,000 bail.
Rico told police that he was driving from Lubbock to Saginaw when God told him to choke the little boy and throw the child out of the car.
Police confirmed there were bruises on the child's neck when he was rescued by Al Hunt, 54. The little boy was alone on the side of the road for several hours before he was spotted.
The frightened child didn't say a word when he was found, just raising four fingers when asked his age.
"He didn't say a word to me," said Hunt. "He didn't say a word to anybody. He never said a word."
Rico could face upgraded charges of attempted murder because the boy is under age 6. The child's stepmother came to Sweetwater to take care of him, officials said.
There was no history of abuse in the child's family, said state Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.