TACOMA, Wash. — A Bonney Lake mother who prosecutors say repeatedly bleached her child's eyes, causing permanent vision damage, was charged Monday with first-degree child assault.
Jennifer Mothershead, 29, pleaded not guilty and her bail was set at $150,000.
In May 2011, Mothershead's 15-month-old daughter was airlifted from Tacoma to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center after suffering a blow to the head. While treating her, medical staff noticed that a previously diagnosed eye condition had worsened.
Mothershead told authorities that her daughter was sleeping up to 22 hours a day because exposure to sunlight had become extremely painful to her eyes.
Mothershead admitted that she had given the child eye medication. She also said her daughter was a "fighter" when it came to the eye drops. Mothershead did not explain how the girl attained the initial head injury, and the child was taken into protective custody.
When hospital staff and detectives investigated the eye drops that the child had been administered, they noticed a strong odor. A detective said the drops causd a minor burning sensation when placed on his wrist.
"One of the things our detectives were concerned about was a lack of concern for the toddler from the mom and we started looking into it," Pierce County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ed Troyer said. "We found one of the eye drop bottles of chemicals, which basically burned our detectives. It obviously wasn't something that should be going in someone's eyes."
After testing at the Food and Drug Administration's Forensic Chemistry labs, scientists determined that the eye drops contained bleach. The child's eye injuries were consistent with bleach exposure, and the child had suffered to an extent that they ruled out the possibility that the dropper had simply been cleaned with bleach.
"Our Special Assault Unit vigorously prosecutes cases of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault," Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. "Those who victimize the most vulnerable members of our community are held accountable by deputy prosecutors who specialize in these particularly unsettling cases."
The victim, who is now 2 years old, has been living with her biological father since last spring.
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