STEUBENVILLE - A woman who was charged with allowing her 1-year-old daughter to get severely burned in the groin area with what the county prosecutor's office believes were chemicals used to make crystal methamphetamine was sentenced to the maximum of three years in prison on Wednesday by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr.
Samantha Burch, 22, of Martins Ferry pleaded no contest to a charge of endangering children.
Wells Township Police were investigating a crystal methamphetamine case in November 2010 when they were told by a person under investigation about a child in need of medical help being located on Coss Street in Dillonvale.
The child was taken to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, where she spent 20 days there before being turned over to the paternal grandmother, Cynthia Harris.
It wasn't the first time the child was treated at the hospital.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said the child had ingested roofing tar solvent six months earlier. Hanlin said the child was close to death and had to have her intestines removed temporarily and placed outside the body because of severe swelling.
Hanlin said solvents are an ingredient in making crystal methamphetamine.
Harris said the hospital believes some type of chemical was poured onto the child's groin area.
"There were so many burns and the skin was just bleeding. It looked like she had been mangled in her private areas," Harris said.
She said she had to hold the child's arms and legs down while the hospital's medical staff cleaned the wounds.
"She was just screaming," Harris said.
The child will be under the care of a burn doctor the rest of her life. She will have to have the scars cut open as she grows, Harris said.
Harris said Burch came to the hospital off and on during the child's treatment but never showed any remorse.
Burch took the stand during the hearing and said she believed the burns were inflicted at a relative's house. She also said she believed the burns were actually diaper rash. Burch admitted she was using crystal methamphetamine at the time. She also said she has had another child since.
Hanlin said the person being investigated for crystal methamphetamine ended up getting the child help.
"So in the end some other 'meth head' realized your child needed help," Hanlin said.
Hanlin said a change in state sentencing laws lowered the maximum sentence for child endangering from five years to three years.
Hanlin said the pictures of the child's wounds were the most disturbing of any child abuse case she ever has been involved with.
"No human being thinks that is diaper rash. I wish more than anything on the planet that we could have charged her with something more serious. It sickens me that she has brought another child onto this planet. I don't think this woman should be around children for the rest of her life," Hanlin said.
Defense attorney Eric Reszke said it is understood the horror the child went through, but the court has to follow the sentencing guidelines and set aside the emotions of the case. Burch's only other offense was a disorderly conduct charge.
Burch told Bruzzese prior to sentencing that she is a changed person.
"I do punish myself everyday for what happened," she said.
Bruzzese said the neglect and abuse of the child occurred over a period of time.
"It was wholesale neglect," the judge said.
He said it was the worst case of child abuse that he has seen on the bench.
"I'm going to suggest in the sentencing order that you aren't allowed anywhere near your two children," Bruzzese said.
Burch said she will appeal the length of the sentence because she was given the maximum sentence.