By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A judge ruled Thursday that a woman who took a 1-year-old boy to the Duenweg fire station with severe injuries on April 10 should stand trial in a felony child-abuse case.
Associate Judge Richard Copeland found probable cause at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin for Erin D. Hernandez, 42, to be bound over for trial.
Hernandez is accused of causing severe injury to Dennis Rawson, who was left in her care by the boy’s mother. A probable-cause affidavit states that the child suffered a brain bleed and had to be flown by medical helicopter to a hospital in Springfield.
Sgt. Justin Pryor of the Duenweg Police Department said he was dispatched to the fire station concerning a boy who was taken there with injuries. Pryor told the court that he observed redness and swelling on the boy’s face before he was taken by ambulance to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin.
The officer testified that Hernandez, who took the child to the station seeking help, smelled of alcohol but denied having had anything to drink.
Before going to the hospital to photograph the child’s injuries, Pryor accompanied Hernandez back to her apartment on Hardy Street in Duenweg, he said. He observed some cleaner and a dirty diaper on the floor of the home, and learned that some of the child’s feces had gotten on Hernandez’s clothing, he told the court.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Ty Gaither, Pryor acknowledged that he did not observe any bruises on the boy’s face, only redness and swelling.
Detective Tim Williams, of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department, testified that he ran into Hernandez that day at a school in Duenweg in the course of checking out the accounts of her son and stepson who had been in the apartment that morning. She accompanied him to the sheriff’s office for an interview that had to be postponed when she acknowledged that she had been drinking and a portable breath test confirmed her state of intoxication, Williams said.
The detective said he interviewed her the next day, and she denied having harmed the boy in any manner. She told him that she left the child with her stepson while she went to get some diapers at the store and later admitted buying vodka as well.
Williams said he then confronted Hernandez with her stepson’s account that he walked in and saw her squeezing the boy around his waist with her legs and choking him with her arm and hands.
“So (the stepson) said he saw me doing this?” Hernandez asked him in response, Williams told the court.
The detective testified that Hernandez told him she had not noticed any marks on the boy when she received him from his mother that morning. She also had not seen any marks on him when she got back from the store, the detective said.
When pressed about how the boy could have suffered his injuries, Hernandez told the detective that the boy had fallen from a counter, although she also said that this had not left any marks on him that she could see, Williams said.
ERIN HERNANDEZ has been ordered to make an initial appearance July 9 in a trial division of Jasper County Circuit Court.