A Kershaw County magistrate Monday denied bond for a mother and her live-in boyfriend, accused of beating a 4-year-old child until her bones were broken, her liver was lacerated and her body was covered in bruises.
When the couple took the girl to the hospital Saturday, they allegedly coached her about what to tell doctors about her injuries — and allegedly made her walk, without assistance, with a broken leg, among other injuries, according to law enforcement officials.
“I’ve seen some worse than this, but the only difference between this child and those is this child is alive,” said Ron Moak, an assistant solicitor for Kershaw County.
/Kershaw County Sheriff's Office
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Catherine Ammons, 24, the child’s mother, and Justin Watson, 27, both of Lugoff, are charged with abuse/to inflict great bodily injury upon a child; abuse/allowing another person to inflict great bodily harm upon a child; and unlawful neglect of a child.
Investigators are not sure how long the girl was suffering the abuse because doctors cannot determine how old the bruises or bone fractures are, said Kershaw County Sheriff’s Sgt. Justin Dill, an investigator. But he said the couple had been living together for a month.
Ammons allegedly would hold her daughter while Watson beat the child, Moak said.
“I know if I had taken her place, I would have been in the hospital…” Ammons said during Monday’s hearing.
Magistrate Judge Roderick Todd set a $100,000 bond for each unlawful neglect charge but denied bond on the other two charges. Ammons will be appointed a public defender, while Watson said he had a private attorney.
The two each face a maximum of 35 years in prison if convicted.
The child, who remains hospitalized in the pediatric ICU at Palmetto Health Richland, is under the custody of the S.C. Department of Social Services, said Jean Catoe, a supervisor who testified during the hearing.
The parents are under investigation by her agency, Catoe said, adding there are no previous complaints against them at social services.
During Monday’s bond hearing, Kershaw County Sheriff’s investigators described the 4-year-old girl as so badly malnourished that doctors were not able to perform a surgery to repair a dislocated elbow and her hair was falling out.
Besides the dislocated elbow, the child was suffering from a broken wrist and a broken leg. She had bruises on the tops of her feet, on her palms and behind her ears, Dill said.
“There’s no other explanation we can come up with other than assault on the child to explain these,” Moak said.
At home, the child was walking by holding onto a wall but the mother was forcing her to try to walk by herself, Dill said.
When Ammons and Watson brought the girl to a Kershaw County hospital Saturday for a broken leg, they told doctors the child had fallen.
“The child was coached into saying, ‘I fell down and got hurt. I fall a lot,’” Dill said.
But the medical staff said the type of fracture and injuries were not consistent with one received in a fall, Moak said. Plus, the child’s elbow was deformed after the mother failed to seek treatment for her, he said.
“It’s obvious to anybody who saw this child that the child was severely injured and needed medical attention,” he said. The child was later transferred from the Kershaw County hospital to Palmetto Health Richland.
Ammons and Watson spoke to the judge during Monday’ hearing, but most of their testimony was inaudible to spectators due to the Kershaw County Detention Center’s setting for bond hearings.
Ammons said she dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and did not have a job. She lived with her parents before moving into Watson’s home.
The 4-year-old’s biological father is not involved in her life, Moak said.
Watson said he was on disability.
Watson has been convicted of stalking, assault and battery and disorderly conduct, Moak said. He also has a pending criminal domestic violence charge.
No other details were available about those cases.
There were no other children living in the home, officials said.
Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/04/24/2...#storylink=cpy