A 24-year-old Joplin woman is being held without bond on charges that she abused and medically neglected her 3-year-old daughter, who was brought to a hospital this month with severe dehydration, kidney failure, emaciation from malnutrition, and fractures to nine bones.
Celia M. Lara-Licon appeared at a hearing Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court conducted via video conference with the Jasper County Jail.
Lara-Licon is charged with two counts of first-degree domestic assault, two counts of child abuse and a single count of child endangerment. Court records show that she was arrested March 4 after an investigation by Joplin police and the Missouri Department of Social Services.
A probable-cause affidavit filed in the case alleges that Lara-Licon met with state child welfare workers March 3 regarding her three children and their fathers, and told an investigator after the meeting that she was the one who had been abusing her 3-year-old girl.
She purportedly told the investigator that she had been abusing the girl for about 18 months, ever since she began taking care of her full time, according to the affidavit. She acknowledged having become frustrated with the girl and hitting her on various parts of her body as well as jerking her by her arms.
The affidavit states that Lara-Licon brought the girl to the emergency room of Mercy Hospital Joplin the following day, March 4, due to the child's vomiting.
A nurse practitioner who examined the girl saw a bruise that ran across her forehead from the left side of her head to her right eye. According to the affidavit, the nurse practitioner noted that the girl appeared lethargic and severely dehydrated, was nonverbal, was unable to hold a cup and weighed just 25 pounds.
Hospital staff determined that the girl had not been seen by a medical professional for 18 months. Because of the kidney failure, the child required dialysis.
X-rays detected fractures to nine bones in various stages of healing, indicating "chronic violence," according to the affidavit. The fractures were to two ribs, a clavicle, the humerus bones of both arms, and the tibia and fibula of both legs. There was bruising to an ear and her buttocks as well as her face.
The girl was flown to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit due to the severity of her condition, according to the affidavit.
A child abuse specialist in Kansas City further diagnosed the girl with laceration of her pancreas and pancreatitis caused by blunt force trauma to her abdomen.
The pediatrician believed the child's nonverbal demeanor was the result of extreme neglect — possibly involving isolation — and told investigators that some of the girl's bones had healed abnormally, resulting in deformities.
The specialist classified the alleged abuse as "child torture," according to the affidavit.
Celia Lara-Licon's next hearing is set for April 1. Associate Judge Joe Hensley may take up the setting of bond at that time.