A 30-year-old Lacey woman was arrested on suspicion of first-degree child assault Thursday afternoon after her 5-year-old nephew was hospitalized with severe burns covering the lower half of his body.
The woman appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on Friday afternoon. Judge Anne Hirsch agreed to release her on her personal recognizance, as long as the defendant has no contact with minors — including the victim, her son and a second nephew who lived in her home.
Deputy Prosecutor Jack Jones said all three children have been placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.
Court documents gave the following account:
Lacey police began investigating the defendant March 15 after a CPS employee reported that a 5-year-old boy was being transported from Providence St. Peter Hospital to Harborview Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns.
An officer drove to the defendant’s home, where she lived with her parents and three children. Her mother told police the defendant had been preparing her 5-year-old nephew, who is autistic, for bed and went downstairs to get a nighttime diaper.
The mother said that when the defendant went back upstairs, she screamed. The mother ran upstairs and saw the defendant pull the child out of the tub. His whole body was red, and his skin began to peel off when the defendant dried him.
The officer contacted the defendant, and she told him a similar story. She said she has custody of her two nephews because their parents are in prison, and that she is working to legally adopt them.
However, a report from Harborview staff told a different story. It stated that the child suffered burns over 16.7 percent of his body, and that the burns didn’t support the story that the child had climbed or fell into the tub himself.
“If he had stepped into scalding water, there would have been burns on the feet or ankles … If he had fallen in, there would have been splash marks, other burns on the body which would reveal a falling event. … This pattern is most highly consistent with immersion-type injury of an abusive nature,” the report read.
Harborview staff also told the officer the child would likely need skin grafts and physical therapy to recover from the injuries.
During the Friday hearing, Jones asked the judge to impose $10,000 bail for the defendant. Hirsch said that it would be appropriate to release the defendant on her personal recognisance — although she had some reservations.
“Frankly, I’m really struggling with the issue of bail,” Hirsch said.
The defendant will likely spend the weekend in jail, however, so that Pretrial Services will have time to verify an address to release her to.
Her arraignment is set for 10 a.m. April 7.