Baby sitter pleads guilty in abuse case

Friday, September 9, 2005

Mother of beaten baby wanted Karen Byrum, who signed a confession, to face a jury.

The mother of a 4-month-old who was beaten black and blue by a baby sitter says she is sorry she won't get to testify against the abuser at a trial.

Baby sitter Karen Byrum pleaded guilty Monday to felony child abuse charges and faces up to seven years in state prison. In a confession signed in April, Byrum said she hit Chloe Street "to quiet her down." Byrum, 44, of 816 Hunze Drive in Cape Girardeau, will be sentenced on Nov. 7.

Wendy Street, mother of the now 9-month-old Chloe, said Thursday that she and her husband, Jeffrey Street, were satisfied but not necessarily happy with the guilty plea.

"We were really hoping it would go to a jury so they could hang her," Wendy Street said.

Byrum was taking care of Chloe for the sixth time on April 1 when the beating occurred.

Both Streets work late shifts. They found Byrum through an advertisement.

Wendy Street said she checked Chloe thoroughly for marks after the first few times Byrum took care of her. Satisfied with the results, she said her diligence slackened, so the marks from the beating weren't apparent until they changed Chloe's clothes after bringing her home.

Pictures prosecutors were prepared to use as evidence show large dark bruises above Chloe's buttocks as well as blue and red bruising across the baby's belly.

Before leaving Chloe in Byrum's care, Wendy Street said, she and her husband checked her background using the Internet and interviewed her twice.

"I don't know what we could have done differently," she said.

Wendy Street said she now works 12-hour shifts so she can be home an extra day each week to watch her child. Her father and a friend take turns caring for Chloe when she and her husband are at work.

"I will never put her in an unlicensed day care, and I won't go to any in-home baby sitters," she said. "And it will be a long, long time before I can even trust her to go to a day care."

Prosecutors rarely see a child abuse case from day care, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said. Most abuse is done in a child's home by relatives, he said.

The felony case against Byrum was clear-cut, Swingle said. "You have to show cruel and unusual punishment of a child. It is a high standard to meet. But this child was so young, and the bruises were so visible, not just on the buttocks but on the stomach."

Prosecutors made no recommendation on sentencing. Circuit Judge William Syler will sentence Byrum. The parents can file written recommendations for sentencing, Swingle said, and testify before sentencing.

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