The father of a 7-year-old retarded boy found half-naked and badly abused at a freeway rest stop near Boise has pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony child desertion.

Edward Donald Tuinman, 29, was indicted by an Ada County grand jury on Jan. 24 for allegedly abandoning Eddy Tuinman Jr. at the Blacks Creek rest area on I-84.He entered his plea Wednesday before 4th District Judge Alan Schwartzman, who scheduled a jury trial to begin May 15 and ordered Tuinman returned to the Ada County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond.

On Monday, Tuinman's 28-year-old wife, Debra, pleaded not guilty to the same charge before 4th District Judge Gerald Schroeder. Her trial is scheduled for March 21.

The couple's mute son was wearing only a T-shirt when he was found Jan. 4. He had been burned by cigarettes and had suffered broken bones, and one doctor characterized his life to that point as a "living hell."

Eddy Jr., who was turned over to the care of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, is in a foster home. His parents were arrested in Utah on their way from Washington to Arizona, where they planned to seek work.

A 5-year-old Salt Lake boy who had lived next door to the Tuinmans recognized Eddy's picture from a newscast and his mother alerted police.