Yesterday charges were officially filed against a 29-year-old Buckley woman who stands accused of intentionally (and repeatedly) putting bleach in her 14-month-old daughter's eyes - leading to permanent vision lost in one of the eyes, and potentially a lifetime of emotional issues.
Mothershead appeared in Pierce County court yesterday, entering a plea of not-guilty to the charges. Various media outlets have reported Mothershead was ordered held in Pierce County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Back on May 12, 2011 Mothershead's then-14-month-old daughter, identified in charging documents as K.M., was airlifted to Harborview with serious injuries to her head, believed to be the result of child abuse. Charging documents indicate the child was suffering from a subdural hematoma, a potentially life-threatening injury for which Jennifer Mothershead could provide no explanation for. Charging documents also contend that investigators discovered the presence of some bruising and an eye infection on the child which were deemed, "concerning."
Once Mothershead's infant daughter was airlifted to Harborview the Pierce County Sheriff's Department was notified because of the suspicion of child abuse - kicking off what turned into a yearlong investigation (culminating Friday with Mothershead's arrest).
When initially interviewed by detectives from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department regarding her daughter's injuries, charging documents say officers found Mothershead to be "unperturbed about the situation," with the mother telling authorities she had no idea how the injuries occurred.
From the charging documents:
[Mothershead] did not question how it could have happened and did not express any type of emotion as to her daughter having been airlifted to Harborview. She would later state that her friend was caring for K.M. just before the injury was discovered.
Also according to charging documents, when investigators asked Mothershead about her daughter's eye infection, she reportedly told authorities the eye issue was the result of time spent playing in a barn and a cornmeal abrasion she had sustained. Mothershead told investigators her daughter's eye had been swollen shut for four weeks, and that the child slept 20-22 hours a day because of the discomfort associated with the injury. She reported to investigators that her daughter had been prescribed antibiotics and eye drops for her infection, and classified her daughter as "a fighter" because of her adverse reaction to the drops.
While charging documents paint Mothershead as emotionless when faced with her daughter being airlifted to Harborview, it was apparently the opposite when the child was placed into protective custody. After telling authorities she needed to give her daughter her eye drops before she left - which she'd brought from home and placed in a cooler in the child's hospital room - charging documents indicate Mothershead became "emotional and slightly argumentative" when police told her that detectives would make sure that proper medications were administered from there on out.
Charging documents continue:
When hospital staff later opened the medications for K.M. that the defendant brought in, they noted that a "noxious odor filled the room, burning eyes, causing mild nausea for staff."
When a detective later opened the container of eye drops, she noted that a strong chemical odor emanated from the bottle, and that her eyes began watering. She closed the bottle. A short time later, the portion of the detective's skin that had been exposed between her latex glove and shirt sleeve was red and had a burning sensation. This ceased several minutes later. The eye drops were submitted to an FDA Forensic Chemistry Center, where it was determined that bleach was present in the eye drops.
Finally, charging documents indicate that investigators consulted Dr. Avery Weiss from Children's Hospital in Seattle who told authorities that the FDA findings regarding bleach were consistent with the type of injury and damage to the victim's eyes, and that the initial diagnosis of a corneal abrasion was inaccurate - going on to note that the child's condition immediately improved upon being taken out of her mother's care. Weiss also told investigators that it would have been impossible for that much bleach to be present simply from cleaning the dropper, and that "it would take a significant amount of bleach, consistently applied, to cause the damage."
From charging documents:
Dr. Weiss also noted that the defendant had a completely indifferent demeanor to her daughter's pain. It was Dr. Weiss' opinion that the vision K.M.'s vision "may never be normal" and that the vision loss in her right eye was permanent and it would be years before long term damage could be fully assessed. Detective Anderson asked him if there was any way K.M.'s eye condition was caused by means not related to inflicted abuse. Dr. Weiss replied that there was not.
The News Tribune in Tacoma reports that Mothershead has another child who is the subject of a dependency hearing, and that the victimized girl at the heart of yesterday's child assault charges now lives with her father.
The Pierce County Prosecutors office tells the Seattle Times the motive is not yet completely clear, and that the investigation continues.
Find complete charging documents on the following page.
Charging documents filed in Pierce County court yesterday against Jennifer Lynn Mothershead: