Couple charged after 3-year-old suffers burns

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An Uptown couple was arrested Tuesday after the woman's 3-year-old daughter sustained second-degree burns from scalding bath water and doctors found "unexplained" bruises on her head, police said.

Doctors at UPMC Mercy's burn unit said the girl's burns were suspicious because they were isolated to specific parts of her body --indicating that she was probably placed in hot water -- rather than spread about, as they would have been if she had jumped or fallen into hot water and splashed around while trying to get out, police wrote in a criminal complaint.

The girl's mother, 23-year-old Shaquia Farrell, initially told police that she left the girl in the bathroom on Feb. 23 while she went to check on her younger son, heard a scream and came back to find the girl trying to jump out of the tub, according to the complaint.

The girl, however, told police that her mother's boyfriend, 20-year-old Patrick Johnson, was watching her while her mother was at work. Mr. Johnson became angry that she lost a sock and then placed her in the hot water, she told police. She offered conflicting accounts as to whether he knew the water was hot.

Ms. Farrell later changed her story. She told officers that Mr. Johnson was watching her daughter at work that day when the girl became sick. Mr. Johnson placed the girl in the tub, went to another room and returned when he heard her scream, Ms. Farrell told police.

She said she initially lied because Mr. Patrick "is a very nice guy and she did not want people to judge him wrongly. The mother stated that with all the child abuse incidents in the news, she knew if she had told the truth he would be judged," according to the complaint.

Mr. Patrick was being held in the Allegheny County Jail on $200,000 bail Tuesday night on charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Ms. Farrell faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child and making a false report to a law enforcement officer. Her bail was set at $50,000.


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