UPDATED at 2:01 p.m.
Pierce County prosecutors have charged a 29-year-old Buckley mother with assault, alleging she repeatedly put bleach into her toddler’s eyes and caused permanent vision loss in the right eye.
Pierce County sheriff’s deputies arrested Jennifer Mothershead on Friday after nearly a yearlong investigation.
She pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault of a child during her arraignment this afternoon. Mothershead was ordered held in Pierce County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Court documents provide the following information.
The 14-month-old girl was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle last May after she sustained a serious head injury. The girl also had an eye infection that was concerning.
Doctors called the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department because they suspected the head injury was result of abuse.
Mothershead told a sheriff’s detective she was unemployed and caring for her daughter full time. She didn’t provide an explanation for her daughter’s head injury and, according to the detective, didn’t show any emotion about her daughter’s injuries.
Regarding the eye infection, Mothershead told the detective her daughter started to have an eye issue in March after she’d been playing in a barn. She got a corneal abrasion, the mother claimed.
Mothershead said the girl received antibiotics and eye drops. She said her daughter’s eyes had been swollen shut for about four weeks and she slept for 20 to 22 hours a day because of the discomfort.
Mothershead claimed her daughter needed to be swaddled when she administered the eye drops because the girl was a fighter.
The detectives placed the girl into state protective custody. Mothershead had brought the eye drops to the hospital and told detectives she needed to give the girl the medication before she left.
“She was told that detectives would ensure that proper medications would be administered and she became emotional and slightly argumentative,” court documents state.
A hospital staff member later opened the eye drops and noticed a foul odor. The scent caused mild nausea and burning eyes to the staff.
Detectives noticed it as well.
Investigators sent the drops to the Food and Drug Administration’s Forensic Chemistry Lab for analysis. The lab determined the 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,” the Prosecutor’s Office reported.
The girl’s condition started to improve in the hospital but doctors noted that she’d permanently loss vision in her right eye.
The girl now lives with her father.
Mothershead has another child who is the subject of a dependency hearing.