January 14, 2014

Police: 3 children removed from home where Rock Hill infant was burned by heater

Three children who police say were left without food and adequate sleeping arrangements have been removed from a Rock Hill home where a 5-month-old infant was burned earlier this month after he was left too close to a heater.

After starting a probe into the circumstances leading to the baby boy’s injuries, police realized that the three children who were still living in the home — a 6 and 2-year-old who belong to the infant’s mother, and the mother’s 13-year-old sister — did not have enough sleeping space, said Executive Officer Mark Bollinger of the Rock Hill Police Department. There was no food in the refrigerator or in the cabinets.

The children were taken into emergency protective custody, Bollinger said. The injured boy’s mother lives at the home with her three children, teenage sister and her mother.

Police are still working to determine if they will file charges against any family members in connection with the infant’s burning, Bollinger said, and have started a separate investigation into the children’s living conditions.

On Jan. 5, a caseworker with the York County office of the Department of Social Services requested that police help her perform a welfare check at an Evans Avenue home, between North Cherry Road and the Stone Haven apartment complex off Celanese Road.

Officials with Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte called DSS after admitting an infant boy who was going to be taken to a burn center in Chapel Hill, N.C., for severe burns on his arms and legs.

Police learned that the baby, born last August, was burned at about 8:30 a.m. after one of his siblings moved him next to a heater while their mother, 23, was asleep, according to a Rock Hill police report.

The child had been lying in a car seat on the living room floor. Authorities realized the baby was left near the heater for several minutes until he started crying. Police say the heater was mounted into a wall and equipped for many older-style homes.

It's unclear if the baby's skin made contact with the heater, and police have not determined how long the baby was beside the device, Bollinger said. Police also are unsure which child put the infant near the heater, but hoped to uncover that information while speaking with the mother last week.

By last Friday, the boy who was burned was still hospitalized in North Carolina, Bollinger said.

There was no record of the boy being at the hospital this week, according to a spokesman with the Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Two days after the boy was taken to the hospital, a police detective went to the home to execute a search warrant, according to police records. Once going inside, the detective saw that there was no stove in the kitchen and only a couple of cans of food on a shelf. There was no food in the refrigerator.

The 40-year-old grandmother— and mother of a teenage daughter — told police there was no food in the house because she buys food daily for the kids to eat.

The teenage girl told police she did not eat breakfast that morning "and rarely does," the report states. She told police she ate lunch at school earlier that day, but she does not always eat dinner.

Police also found two mattresses on the floor of the bedroom, the report states. Detectives could find no other bedding.

The Herald's efforts to reach the mother and grandmother have been unsuccessful. A man who answered the door at the home last week claimed The Herald had the wrong address and said "no babies live here."

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