The Lacey woman accused of forcing her autistic nephew into a bath of scalding water pleaded not guilty to child abuse charges Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court.
The woman, 32, appeared before Judge Gary Tabor and was represented by Olympia attorney Gary Preble. She is charged with first-degree child assault.
She was arrested March 26 and later released on $10,000 bail.
Lacey police began investigating the woman March 15 after her 5-year-old nephew was taken to Harborview Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns, according to court documents.
The woman told police that she had been getting the child ready for bed and left the room to get an overnight diaper. When she came back, the child was in the bath. She said she pulled the child out of the tub, and his body was red.
She said she had custody of the boy and a second nephew because their parents are in prison, and that she is working to legally adopt them. Her son also lived in the home.
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.
Harborview staff also reported that the child would likely need skin grafts and physical therapy to recover from the injuries, according to court documents.
The three children were removed from the home, where the woman lives with her parents. At a March 27 hearing, Judge Anne Hirsch prohibited the woman from having contact with children.
During the Tuesday hearing, Preble told the judge that his client has been afraid to leave her home — even to go shopping — since the order was imposed. Tabor clarified that the order was intended to prevent intentional contact, and advised the defendant not to visit places where children typically gather, such as restaurants that cater to children.
The woman asked Tabor for a court-appointed attorney. Based on her income and expenses, he found her partially indigent, meaning she’ll contribute $100 per month to her defense costs.