The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 8, 2013

Man charged after 2-year-old girl was seriously burned in bath

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — A 24-year-old man faces felony and other charges after he oversaw a bath in which a 2-year-old girl was so badly burned that she had to be flown by medical helicopter to a specialized clinic in Allentown, police said.

Stephen A. Childress has been ordered to stay away from the 2-year-old and her mother. The child also suffered bruises, scratches and a bite on her foot, according to court documents.

He is charged with a felony count of child endangerment as well as a misdemeanor count of endangerment and two misdemeanor counts of simple assault.

Childress was arraigned Feb. 1 before District Judge Leo Armbruster and is free on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear again before Armbruster on Feb. 28 for a preliminary hearing.

The child and her mother are living at an undisclosed location, according to Sgt. Frederick Hetrick of the Buffalo Valley Regional Police. Under his bail restrictions, Childress cannot have contact with them and needs additional supervision if he is around other children.

According to the affidavit, the child was burned while Childress was giving her a bath in April 2012. Both he and the child’s mother claimed the residence’s hot water tended to fluctuate and could become very hot unexpectedly.

The child was flown by Life Flight helicopter from Evangelical Community Hospital to Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Regional Burn Center for treatment of second- and third-degree burns to her neck, back, arm and shoulder and was listed in serious condition.

Union County Children & Youth contacted Buffalo Valley police after Evangelical personnel called, suspecting child abuse. Lehigh County Children & Youth also became involved.

Asked why it took 10 months for Childress to be charged, police cited the investigation included accessing medical records protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The child’s mother consented for police to access the records, police said. Documentation also came from Children & Youth agencies in Union and Lehigh counties and both treating hospitals.

“The important thing to know was even with the delay, the baby wasn’t in any danger” during the investigation, Hetrick said. Mother and child were living elsewhere with family at an undisclosed location.

Police also obtained a search warrant of the Lewisburg residence where the incident occurred and took readings of the hot water outlets in the home.

Shortly after the burn incident, police learned that weeks earlier the mother had brought the child to her place of employment, and that someone saw a bruise on the child’s forehead and shoulder, a bump on the left side of her head, scratches on her face and what looked like a bite mark on her right foot.

The mother spoke with Childress, who allegedly said he didn’t know what happened and the child must have fallen off a bed. He later allegedly said he pinched her shoulder to get the child to stop crying, and he bit her foot after she twisted his nipple while he was dressing her.