Prosecutors have charged a Pierce County mother with child assault after she allegedly used an eyedropper to put bleach in her 14-month-old daughter's eyes multiple times, causing permanent damage.
Jennifer Mothershead pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday in Pierce County court. A judge ordered Mothershead to be held on $150,000 bail.
According to charging documents, Pierce County deputies were contacted after the 14-month-old was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center with serious head injuries and Mothershead was unable to give an explanation.
Medical personnel discovered the child also had some bruising and an eye infection. Upon questioning by detectives, Mothershead appeared "unperturbed about the situation" and said she had no idea what caused the child's injuries, according to court documents.
When asked about the eye infection, she said the child's eyes had been swollen shut for four weeks and that the toddler slept 20-22 hours a day, due to "discomfort." She also said the child had been prescribed antibiotics and eye drops for an eye infection caused by an injury while "playing in a barn."
When detectives placed the toddler into protective custody, Mothershead said she needed to give the child eye drops before she left and left the eye drops in a cooler in the hospital room.
When hospital staff later opened the bottle, they said a "noxious odor filled the room, burning eyes, causing mild nausea for staff," said the charging documents. A detective who later opened the bottle said her skin that was exposed to the fumes became red and had a burning sensation.
A forensic team determined that bleach was inside the eye drop bottle. A doctor with Children's Hospital later said bleach was consistent with the type of injury the child had to her eyes, and that a "significant amount of bleach, consistently applied" would be required to cause the level of damage found in the child's eyes.
The doctor said the child's vision "may never be normal" and that loss of vision in her right eye was permanent.
The court ruled that Mothershead not be allowed to see or have contact with her daughter, who is currently with her biological father. Mothershead reportedly has no prior criminal history.