Lacey grandma accused of assault said 9-year-old had "a demon," court papers state

Staff writerDecember 23, 2013 

Cynthia Miller is accused of abusing her 9-year-old granddaughter.

BY JEREMY PAWLOSKI

A 53-year-old Lacey woman is accused in court papers of forcing her 9-year-old custodial granddaughter to stand in a corner while holding a bible over her head, as a group of four other children yelled "Jehovah" at her "in an effort to get the demon out."

Alleged abuse perpetrated by Cynthia Miller, 53, of Lacey, also included subjecting the 9-year-old to repeated whippings, and an attempt to drown the 9-year-old in a bathtub, court papers state.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ordered Miller held at the Thurston County Jail Monday on suspicion of a count of second-degree assault of a child. Dixon set Miler's bail at $40,000.

Miller interrupted Dixon as he read the criminal charge she is accused of in court and said "I don't agree that I committed that crime." Miller's husband, who was present in court, said Monday that his wife denies the accusations against her, but declined further comment until he had talked to a lawyer.

Thurston County Sheriff's Detective Jamie Gallagher said Miller's alleged abuse occurred at Miller's residence at the Tolmie Cove Apartments in the 7200 block of 32nd Avenue in Lacey.

According to court papers:

A Thurston County sheriff's detective has been investigating the alleged abuse of the 9-year-old since Oct. 31, when she was asked to assist Child Protective Services with a child neglect complaint originating out of South Bay Elementary School.

School officials made a report to CPS because of suspicious bruising on the 9-year-old's face and body. The detective also investigated a complaint that the child was not being fed properly and had lost a large amount of weight.

Det. Gallagher placed all five of the children into protective custody - however, the other four children were all in relatively good health. The 9-year-old was in Miller's care because her biological mother had been accused of abusing the child in California when she was 2.

Miller told Gallagher that she had had an "issue" with the 9-year-old stealing food and makeup. She claimed she only spanked the 9-year-old "sometimes."

The 9-year-old girl was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital, where doctors found bruising on her entire body "from the top of her head to her toes." A subsequent x-ray at another hospital showed the 9-year-old had suffered healing fractures to both of her wrists, to her left arm, to one of her fingers and one of her toes. She also had a an old fracture to one of her legs that did not show on the x-ray but was noted during a physical exam.

The four other girls who were also taken out of Miller's home told Gallagher in separate interviews that Miller treated the 9-year-old differently than the rest of the girls "because she had a demon."

The girls told Gallagher about having to yell "Jehovah" at her as she stood in a corner holding a bible over her head. They also said the 9-year-old "would get spanked with a belt, but they would not."

The 9-year-old was reluctant to talk to Gallagher, but "said she did not want to go back and did not feel safe there. Her body language changed dramatically whenever Det. Gallagher approached the subject of Cynthia and discipline."

The 9-year-old said Miller had tried to drown her in a bathtub by holding her under the water.

Gallagher arrested Miller on Dec. 10, while Miller had a scheduled hearing with CPS in Family Court. Miller declined to give a statement to Gallagher.

It was unclear Monday how the 9-year-old wound up in Miller's home, but the 9-year-old's biological mother had a prior relationship with Miller's son.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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