Mom found guilty in death of daughter

July 12, 2010 4:41:29 PM PDT
After just a few hours of deliberation, the jury has returned a verdict in the trial of a woman accused of doing nothing while her young daughter was fatally abused by her boyfriend at the time. Abigail Young was found guilty of causing injury to a child by omission, but the jury found that she did so recklessly rather than knowingly and intentionally. It was a lesser charge and carries with it a sentence of two to 20 years behind bars, instead of a possible life sentence she faced on the more serious charge.

The lesser charge was a big shock to the prosecution.

"The jury took our case very seriously, but we're disappointed in the verdict," said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Barnett. "Certainly, we can see evidence ourselves of when a kid is hurt or injured, and not only did she not tell anybody she recognized that as abuse, but she covered it up. And I think that says volumes about her, not only as a mother but as a person."

Young collapsed in tears and was audibly sobbing when the verdict was read in court Monday afternoon. The verdict was a relief for the defense.

"She's upset, but we accept the jury's verdict," said defense attorney Colin Amann. "We were happy that the jury did not find that she intentionally or knowingly did something to harm her child."

Young's daughter, Emma Thompson, died last year. An autopsy revealed 80 injuries including a skull fracture, internal bleeding, and signs of rape.

Emma was rushed to the hospital last June, covered in bruises with massive internal injuries and a fractured skull. Young claimed at the time that the four year old had fallen. But expert witnesses gave testimony that none of the child's injuries was consistent with the mother's story.

In her closing argument, Harris County prosecutor Colleen Barnett walked over and stood beside Young while telling the jury that the mother, who was a registered nurse, not only ignored signs of physical and sexual abuse her daughter was suffering, but also made repeated efforts to hide it from people, including Child Protective Services investigators, who could have helped the child.

"When she lied to Dr. Singh, she failed to protect Baby Emma. When she lied to Dr. Waterhouse, she failed to protect Baby Emma. When she lied to CPS, she failed to protect Baby Emma. When she lied to Texas Children's Hospital, she failed to protect Baby Emma," said Barnett.

Young, 34, was on trial for injury to a child by omission for allegedly knowing about the abuse and deliberately failing to intervene and stop her boyfriend, Lucas Coe, from sexually abusing and beating the 4 year old.

Emma Thompson died last June from injuries that included a fractured skull, a lacerated pancreas, and injuries to her genitals. There was also evidence of older abuse, and just weeks before her death doctors diagnosed the 4 year old with genital herpes.

"Do you think 80 bruises signifies someone that's abused or neglected? What about a rib fracture? What about a sexually transmitted disease?" Barnett asked the jury in court.

Young's lawyers argued that she did not know about the abuse that was taking place in her own home and that she was cooperative when CPS investigators came to the home just weeks before the child's death, but didn't remove her from the home.

Her lawyers say that other people caring for Emma, including the child's own father, weren't aware of the abuse.

"He didn't say it because he didn't think there was an issue. They weren't red flags then, now they are red flags," said defense attorney Julie Ketterman.

Young's attorneys say this was not a case of a cover up.

"Hindsight - everything is always clearer in hindsight," said defense attorney Julie Ketterman.

Coe was already charged with injury to a child in two cases in Montgomery County when Young moved him into her house, but her attorneys say Young was a loving mother who was completely blind to what her boyfriend was doing.

"The prosecution is hoping to prey upon that inner part of you that wants to believe the worst in people, instead of looking at what the evidence tells us," said defense attorney Colin Amann.

The punishment phase begins in this case tomorrow. Because Young does not have a criminal history, she will be eligible for probation.

Coe's trial starts in September. He is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.


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