Buckley woman charged with assault for putting bleach in child's eyes

Prosecutor Mark Lindquist Monday charged Buckley resident Jennifer Mothershead, 29, with Assault of a Child in the First Degree for repeatedly putting bleach into her daughter’s eyes causing permanent vision loss in the child’s right eye.

“Our Special Assault Unit vigorously prosecutes cases of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault,” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a press release. “Those who victimize the most vulnerable members of our community are held accountable by deputy prosecutors who specialize in these particularly unsettling cases.”

Mothershead lived on 112th Street East between Bonney Lake and Buckley.

In May 2011, the 15 month old toddler was airlifted to Harborview after suffering an abusive head injury. While she was hospitalized, hospital staff noticed that a previously diagnosed eye condition had worsened to the point that the toddler was sleeping 20-22 hours per day as exposure to sunlight was extremely painful. Mothershead admitted that as the child’s primary caretaker, she administered eye medication and said that her daughter was a “fighter” when it came to the eye drops. She had no explanation for the head trauma. Detectives placed the child into protective custody.

When hospital staff members later opened the eye drops that Mothershead had been using on her daughter, they noticed a foul odor. Detectives noted the odor as well, and the solution Mothershead administered to her daughter seemed to cause minor burning on the detective’s exposed wrist.

The eye drops were sent to the Food and Drug Administration’s Forensic Chemistry Lab. Scientists determined that the eye drops contained bleach. The staff at Harborview determined that the damage to the child’s eyes was consistent with repeated exposure to bleach, and ruled out any possibility that the eye dropper had been merely cleaned with bleach.

Dr. Avery Weiss of Seattle Children’s Hospital has reviewed the case and determined that vision loss in the child’s right eye is permanent, and concluded that it would be years before the long term damage could be fully assessed.

Mothershead was arraigned Monday in Tacoma. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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