ADRIAN, Mich. — A medical expert helped convince a judge Friday there was no accident involved in severe burns a 2-year-old Adrian girl suffered on Dec. 28.
After a hearing in Lenawee County District Court, the suspect was bound over to face trial in circuit court on torture, first-degree child abuse and assault charges. A $1 million bond was also continued for 26-year-old Richon Daniel-Reeves Linley of Adrian.
“I don’t find that this was accidental,” ruled district Judge Laura J. Schaedler. The girl’s badly burned left hand “is not consistent with a child playing with bleach on the floor.”
The girl’s mother, Jessica Lynn Horn, 25, testified that bleach was the explanation her boyfriend gave for the burns.
She rushed home from errands she was running that afternoon when she got a text message that her daughter, Halaena, was burned with bleach, Horn testified. Her daughter was crying and her hand was in a towel when she got to her apartment at Rivers Bend on West Beecher Street, she said.
“I unwrapped it and it was white,” Horn said. “I don’t want to say it was blisters, but it was loose skin,” she said.
Linley told her he found Halaena playing in a puddle of bleach on the bathroom floor, Horn told the court.
The girl suffered what is called a “glove type burn,” testified Dr. Bethany Anne Mohr, director of the child protection team at the University of Michigan Health System. The burn covered her entire hand up to an even mark around her wrist, Mohr said.
Common household bleaches are not strong enough to cause the second-degree burns that Halaena suffered without prolonged exposure, said Mohr.
“The question then is, did someone hold her hand in bleach for a significant length of time,” she said. It might take an hour to cause such severe burns, she said.
It would take only an instant to inflict second-degree burns by dunking the girl’s hand in 150- to 160-degree hot water, Mohr said. Nerves would remain intact, she said, and the pain is “typically excruciating” for that type of burn.
Mohr said Halaena was admitted to the hospital’s trauma burn unit on Jan. 5. Skin grafting was done on Jan. 8 to repair some of the injuries.
“It made a difference in terms of her suffering during that time period,” she told the court.
Mohr said Halaena is “doing fairly well” in healing, with therapy helping avoid any loss of movement in her hand.
Horn testified that Linley discouraged her from seeking medical help, telling her nothing could be done for a chemical burn and that her children would be taken away by Child Protective Services if it was reported.
Linley sent her a series of text messages on Jan. 2, threatening to report her if she took Halaena to the hospital, Horn said.
Horn took the girl to an emergency room on Jan. 5, she said, “when I was doing everything and it wasn’t getting better.”
She had asked a local pharmacist for advice on treating the burn, she said.
A neighbor’s 14-year-old daughter testified she was in Horn’s apartment, babysitting several children, when Halaena was burned.
She, however, gave contradictory testimony Friday.
She said she saw Linley holding the girl over a sink of steaming hot water in the bathroom when questioned by Assistant Lenawee County Prosecutor Douglas Hartung. Later she said it was her younger sister who saw Linley burn the girl in the bathroom, and that Linley threatened to kill her if she told.
When questioned by public defender Anna Marie Anzalone, the teen said she smelled bleach on Halaena when she saw her hand was burned.
Anzalone argued for dismissal of the charges after the two-hour hearing.
“There has been nothing presented to indicate my client is in any way responsible for that injury,” Anzalone told the court.
The pattern and severity of the burn are evidence it was not accidental or the result of a child playing in spilled bleach, said Schaedler. Even if the teenage babysitter’s testimony is discounted, Schaedler said, the evidence still shows the 2-year-old was with Linley when she was burned.
Schaedler also rejected a request to reduce Linley’s $1 million bond to personal recognizance.
“It makes no sense to reduce bond in this case,” objected Hartung. Linley has several past convictions involving assaultive behavior, he said, and there is testimony he threatened to kill a witness.
Linley is to be arraigned in circuit court on May 11.
Horn is scheduled for a hearing the same day in circuit court on a second-degree child abuse charge for delaying her daughter’s medical treatment