Bizarre cases of child maltreatment discussed at Layton conference

Nov 13 2013 - 4:11pm

LAYTON -- The pictures looked like a torture scene from the hit TV series 24.

The victim's three front teeth had been yanked out by the roots with a pair of pliers. The same tool was used to try and pry off his toenails and pinch the victim's legs. There were also burn marks to his face consistent with the end of a cigarette.

The victim wasn't a prisoner held hostage by terrorists, however. He was a 3-year-old child, abused at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. Because the child lived through the horrendous abuse, he has suffered from severe psychological trauma, said Dr. Toni Laskey, a child-abuse pediatrician at Primary Children's Medical Center.

"He won't let anyone come near his mouth, his speech was affected and he has to deal with the knowledge of knowing his own mother was right there while this jackass was torturing him," Laskey said. "This child was pinned down and with no pain medication, had his teeth pulled out by the roots and ligaments one at a time. He had bruises around his neck an jaw from being held down. His toes were blistered and bruised from this guy trying to pull out his toenails, and every time anyone would try and look at his feet he would scream his head off."

Laskey, along with deputy Salt Lake County district attorney, Rob Parrish, were speaking on Wednesday at the 26th annual conference on Child Abuse and Family Violence, held at the Davis Conference Center. The topic of their presentation was Just When We Thought We'd Seen it All -- Bizarre Cases of Child Maltreatment.

"Every once in awhile a case comes along that breaks the mold," Parrish said. "And we have learned the things people do to harm children has no limits, so we need to always be expanding our assumptions."

Parrish, who talked about two pending cases he is working on, said he thought he knew all of the injuries that could come from shaking a baby.

"Then I got this case," he said. "It involved a daycare worker, Jeri Teuscher, who in the 1990s, killed a 2-month-old in her home."

The child, Rocky Christiansen, had none of the typical findings of shaken baby syndrome. Teuscher claimed she awakened the child and he went into cardiac arrest in her arms. During her third interview she said she remembered dropping him in his playpen. Parrish said Teuscher knew the signs of shaken baby syndrome, so she held the baby by the head, put her thumbs over his eyes and shook him violently. The shaking caused damage to his spinal cord and brain stem, which are not the typical signs of shaken baby syndrome. It was later found out that another child died in her care. Witnesses also came forward to testify that she had locked many of the children in closets and dark rooms and, on the day Rocky died, was caring for 15 children, eight of whom were under the age of 2, which went against her licensing requirements.

Parrish and Laskey talked about many of their cases during the conference. One little girl had air behind her eyeball and air circulating throughout her neck and head as the result of a laceration to her throat with a pair of scissors. The three-day conference also included two keynote speakers and several workshops on topics such as burns, sex offenders, drug endangered children, preventing youth suicide in Utah and child neglect.


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