Detective Reacts To Child Abuse Sentencing

.jpg photo of Abusive Mother
Annette Smith, 33

LAS CRUCES, NM – Annette Smith was sentenced to 21 years in prison yesterday after reaching a plea deal with prosecutor. Smith can be eligible for parol after serving 11 years.

Kacee Thatcher, a retired detective who worked on the case, says she was in disbelief after she heard the decision. She told ABC-7 she believes Smith should’ve gotten a longer sentence. According to Thatcher’s police report, Smith once flipped over the mattress sending the baby flying into the bars of the crib. Thatcher said the two older children were also regularly abused by their mother.

Court records show Smith was charged with child abuse of her two older children in 2007. Those charges were later dropped, under a previous administration.

Thatcher said after the first indictment, Smith went right back to abusing the kids. She said the abuse then escalated to the baby.

“She would be ravenous when they would feed her when they would get home and the baby was not growing,” Thatcher said. “I found out through my investigation that she would lie about how much she was feeding the baby when she was taking the baby to the doctor.”

The district attorneys office would not comment on camera, but in a prepared statement they stated the sentence “is a strong one that serves the interest of justice.”


Abused Kids Not Destined to Be Abusive Parents, Study Finds

That theory has been supported by past research. But, Widom explained, those studies have been hampered by limitations, such as working “backward” — starting with parents accused of abuse, and asking them if they’d been mistreated as kids.

Conventional wisdom says that abused children often grow up to be abusive parents, but a 30-year study of American families suggests it’s more complicated than that.

In one striking finding, researchers uncovered little evidence that physical abuse is passed from one generation to the next.

“That was extremely surprising,” said lead researcher Cathy Spatz Widom, a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York City.  “The theory has been that children of parents who were abused are at increased risk of physical abuse.”

That theory has been supported by past research.  But, Widom explained, those studies have been hampered by limitations, such as working “backward” — starting with parents accused of abuse, and asking them if they’d been mistreated as kids.

“The problem there is, you miss the parents who were abused but did not go on to have these issues,” Widom explained.

Her study, published in the March 27 issue of Science, followed two generations of families, including over 1,100 parents and their kids. More than half of the parents had been abused or neglected as children, back in the 1960s and 1970s; the rest had no history of abuse, but were from similar backgrounds.

To see whether the children of abused parents were at risk, Widom’s team used three sources: Records from child protective services (CPS); interviews with parents; and interviews with their children once they were young adults.

Overall, the researchers found, children of abused parents were at no greater risk of physical abuse.  And that was true whether the information came from parents’ or children’s reports, or CPS records.

Based on CPS reports, for example, almost 7 percent of kids born to abused parents suffered physical abuse, versus just over 5 percent of the comparison group — a difference that was not statistically significant.

In contrast, children of abused parents were at higher risk of sexual abuse or neglect, the finding showed.

There’s no clear explanation for the difference between physical abuse and other forms of mistreatment, according to Widom.

“It’s really puzzling to us,” she said. “We need more research to dig into the reasons.”

Dr. Kristine Campbell, a pediatrician who studies child abuse, commended the work.

“This is a very impressive research effort,” said Campbell, an associate professor at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City.

“There has long been acceptance that abuse is passed down through generations, almost like eye color or skin tone,” Campbell said.

In her personal experience, she added, “I’ve seen this presented as a reason to suspect a parent of abusing a child. I’ve also seen parents terrified that they are predestined to abuse their child because of their own histories of maltreatment.”

But these findings show that’s not the case, Campbell said.
Widom agreed. “Parents shouldn’t feel they’re doomed to continuing the cycle of abuse,” she said.

Her team did, however, find that authorities may have a “bias” toward detecting abuse when parents have a history of child mistreatment.

The researchers looked at the rate of official CPS reports among all parents and kids who reported abuse or neglect: When it came to families where parents had been abused, about 30 percent of abuse cases involved an official CPS report; among other families, CPS picked up only 15 percent of abuse cases.

How would that happen?  Widom speculated that parents with a history of child abuse may use more social services in general.

“Each time you’re in contact with social services,” Widom said, “there’s an opportunity to be observed by the people working for those agencies, and they’re mandated to report suspected child abuse.”

But that does not mean abuse is “over-detected” in those families, Campbell stressed. Instead, she said, the findings imply that the system often misses child mistreatment — especially in families where parents have no history of abuse.

Despite that sobering take-away, Campbell also saw “good news” in the findings.

“The substantial majority of parents who have experienced child abuse will never abuse their own children,” Campbell said.

And for those struggling to get past their childhood mistreatment, many communities have programs that help young moms and dads build their parenting skills, she added.

According to Widom, future studies should dig for the reasons why some abused kids become abusive parents, while many others do not.

Campbell agreed. “If we want to work on child abuse prevention, we need to better understand the perpetrators of abuse,” she said.  “My experience is that very few parents who abuse their children can simply be dismissed as ‘monsters.'”

Witnesses Offer Graphic Testimony In Child Abuse Case

.jpg photo of horrible Child Abuse
Photos that are states evidence of Child with over 40 broken bones.

Beaumont, TX  –  Witnesses in the criminal trial of a Port Arthur woman accused of severely injuring her newborn baby testified dozens of times Tuesday that it was the worst case of child abuse they had ever seen.

Christine Johnson, a Port Arthur woman accused of breaking or fracturing 40 of her newborn daughter’s bones in August 2013, is charged with two counts of injury to a child.

If convicted, the 22-year-old faces life in prison.

“Every time you grabbed something, it was broken,” said Angela Webb, a registered nurse who worked at Christus St. Mary Hospital, where Faith Mason was admitted on Aug. 18, 2013.

Webb sobbed on the stand as Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth asked her to explain photos of Baby Faith’s injuries.

She told the jury, made up of 11 men and one woman, that she had to put an IV line in Faith’s neck, which was also broken, because all of her limbs were crackling “like Pixie Stix.”

Johnson is accused of yanking the 1-month-old out of her bassinet by her arms on Aug. 13, 2013.

The force caused the baby’s neck to break and damaged her brain, according a probable cause affidavit in the case.

An investigator with Child Protective Services testified that Johnson told her she grabbed the girl so violently because she cried and woke her up.

Johnson was arrested about a month after the emergency room visit. She and Faith’s father, Darrell Mason, 19, lost custody of their daughter around the same time.

Mason is also charged with injury to a child. He will be tried separately at a later date.

Faith Mason, now 2, remains in state care.

Ryan Matuska, Johnson’s attorney, asked all of the state’s witnesses if they could say precisely what caused the girl’s injuries. They all testified that they could not.

Dr. Peter Evans, St. Mary’s emergency room medical director, said Faith’s injuries were so severe that they were comparable to a fall from a two-story building or a severe car crash.

“Her femur was completely deformed,” he testified.

Matuska said in his opening statement Tuesday morning that Faith’s injuries were undeniable. But who caused the injuries was unclear, he told the jury.

“I ask you to keep an open mind,” Matuska said.

Testimony will resume in Stevens’ court today.

The trial is expected to last all week.