Woman found guilty of child endangerment

Monday, May 21, 2012

BENTON, Mo. -- A woman has been found guilty of causing second- and third-degree burns to her young stepson by submerging him in hot water.

Laura Hernandez, 25, was convicted of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child after a two-day jury trial, which ended Tuesday. Scott County Circuit Judge David Dolan set sentencing for June 28.

On July 16, 2009, the 33-month-old boy was taken to Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston with severe burns on his left leg, both buttocks and right ankle, according to testimony during the trial. At the time, the child was in the care of Hernandez.

The child was then transported to St. John's Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, where doctors determined the burns were consistent with child abuse or neglect. The victim spent 12 days in the hospital. Subsequently, he has had skin grafts done to his legs and future surgeries are expected as he grows.

Dr. Richard Hack testified the burns indicated a forced emersion in hot water, which is an act of abuse, and not a fall into the tub as the defense argued.

In a news release from his office, Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd also cited the defendant's four inconsistent statements, her sister's differing version of the incident and a comment by Hernandez to a Missouri Children's Division worker indicating dislike of the toddler and never wanting to see him again.

Hernandez's defense attorney, Susan Warren, questioned the child's statement that "Laura did it" due to his age and the possibility he is autistic.

Dr. Kevin Blanton's testified that any child that age would be more likely to remember the traumatic event despite a general diagnosis of autism.

The defendant did not testify at the trial.

Pertinent address:

Benton, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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