Joshua Salovich

A Mississippi man who fatally beat a 3-year-old girl because she couldn’t correctly answer questions about numbers told investigators that “this was a tough world and she had to be tough if she wanted to survive,” Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose said Monday.

Joshua Salovich was charged with capital murder, meaning he could face the death penalty, and held without bail. Detectives testified in an initial court appearance that the 25-year-old boxer-in-training beat toddler Bailey Salovich at maximum force with a bamboo rod, a cellphone cord and his hands.

Dubose said it isn’t clear whether Salovich is the child’s biological father.

Questioning Salovich and the child’s mother separately, Dubose said Salovich told police that he was asking the toddler questions about numbers and would “pop” her when she answered incorrectly. Salovich said he had used the same method to discipline the child at least five times per week, Dubose said. Salovich told police he used a bamboo rod until it broke, then switched to a cellphone cord to administer some of the licks. Other blows came from his hand.

“He did state that on that day, the child was giving an unusual amount of incorrect answers,” Dubose said.