BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Testimony ended Tuesday in the trial of 24-year-old Danielle Connor who was arrested last January following the severe scalding of her 16-month-old girl.
After the jury broke for lunch after hearing a variety of witnesses including an investigator from the Wichita Police Department in Kansas, a doctor from the hospital in Wichita, and a Dewey police investigator, reconvening they heard from Conner herself and a recording of a police interview.
Dewey police arrested 24-year-old Danielle Lynn Connor following an investigation that began on Jan. 30 when the Wichita Police Department contacted them about a toddler whose burns appeared suspicious nature, according to the affidavit.
A detective told police Connor's alleged story the burns resulted from a spilled pot of boiling water did not match the injuries as the injuries appeared to be submersion burns.
Reportedly, when Dewey investigators spoke with Connor and confronted her with the evidence, she reportedly told them she had placed the girl in a bathtub with a 3-year-old child in water that "was not hot."
Connor said she left the children for 10 minutes when she heard crying at which time the 3-year-old found her and tried to tell her something she said she could not understand. She said she thought it was about argument over a toy.
She told investigators when she came back to the bathroom and noticed the hot water was on and the younger girl was screaming, she immediately lifted the child from the water and "the skin fell off (the 16-month-old's) legs."
It was following this interview on Jan. 31 police arrested her and the 3-year-old was taken into Department of Human Services custody.
Among those called to the witness stand Tuesday morning was expert medical witness Dr. Kerri Meyer, a member of the hospital staff in Wichita, and an expert in pediatrics, child abuse and child neglect.
She told the court the injuries were second to third-degree burns that covered nearly 35 percent of the child's body, necessitating the 16-month old to undergo daily soaking and scrubbing to remove the dead skin — a "pain intensive process" — and later, skin grafting.
The burns, she said, were a typical "stocking and glove" pattern indicating they were caused by submersion.
Asked by Jared Sigler of the Washington District Attorney's Office what 140 degree water would do to a child, Meyers responded it would burn the skin "in several seconds," saying that "children burn more severely than adults in the same temperature water."
She added during further questioning that an examination of the child gave no indications of child abuse or medical problems.
Dewey Police Department Investigator Tim Stringer who conducted the investigation on the incident then called to the stand recalled how his search of Conner's residence and conversations with Connor after he was contacted by the Wichita police about the child.
He said after Connor first told him the injuries resulted from the fall of a boiling pot of water, he obtained a search warrant and visited her residence.
"It was fairly neat," he told the court, speaking of the trailer home in a trailer park just south of Dewey. He said upon entering it he found the home equipped with various child safety devices including gates, cabinet and drawer locks.
In the hallway bathroom where the children had been bathing when the incident occurred, he saw a tub seat attached to the tub's wall, bath toys in the tub's bottom and what appeared to be flesh adhered to the tub's surface.
Additionally, he noticed the tub's hot and cold knobs were reversed. A look at the water heater showed it to be set at "just below 150 degrees." When he performed a test on the temperature of the water coming out of the faucet, he said it heated to 140 degrees in 40 seconds.
When he recalled how Connor came to the police department on Jan. 21, he said it was then she told him of how she had been doing laundry as she bathed the children.
"She was very upset and crying," he said describing her emotional state. "She kept repeating how she shouldn't have been doing laundry, cooking, while bathing the children."
Following a lunch break, jurors back in the courtroom heard from a former Department of Human Services worker and now foster parent who took care of Conner's children after Connor's arrest. She said in later conversations with Connor, Connor was "very concerned about her children" and would often talk about them and recount memories.
Connor then taking the stand said the day the accident happened was a happy day, up until the time of the accident.
She said after her boyfriend had gone to his work and after lunch, due to the nice weather she brought the two girls to the area park to play on the playground equipment.
It was after they had returned home, when she was bathing the kids, doing the laundry and fixing dinner when the accident occurred.
Connor told the court she had put 16-month-old in the tub seat in warm water with
the 3-year-old — the 16-month-old at the opposite end of the tub from the faucet and had turned off the faucet.
During the ten minutes she was away doing laundry, the older child came to her speaking "gibberish." Due to the sound of the traffic outside, the washer and dryer, and the 16-month-old crying, she could not understand the child. When she went to check on the baby, she found her screaming in the tub seat, the faucet on, the water level lower than she had left it and water very hot.
Choking up and in tears, Connor told the court how when she lifted the child out of the seat, the skin fell off the child's legs.
"Her legs were very red and the skin was gone," she said. It was at this point, she said, she immediately gathered up the kids and rushed to the hospital, knocking a boiling pot of water off the stove as she hurried to leave.
Asked what the experience was like that evening, she responded in tears "It was horrifying."
She told the court she lied initially to protect her 3-year-old whom she believed had drained the tub and turned on the hot water in the tub.
Following her testimony, a recording played in court of her interview with police at the Dewey Police Department showed her to be very distraught, crying saying "I can't see my baby!," "I don't want to feel like a criminal," "I don't want to go to jail" and "It's my fault" — saying many times how she should not have left the children in the tub to do the laundry and cooking.
The trial will continue Wednesday morning when the jury hears closing arguments before it goes into deliberation.