TACOMA, Wash. - After repeatedly putting bleach into her daughter’s eyes and causing permanent vision loss, a Tacoma woman was charged with child abuse, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said.
Lindquist charged Jennifer Mothershead, 29, with first-degree assault of a child on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said that last May, the 15-month-old toddler was airlifted to Harborview after suffering a head injury.
While she was hospitalized, hospital staff said they noticed that a previously diagnosed eye condition had worsened to the point that the toddler was sleeping 20 to 22 hours per day because exposure to sunlight was extremely painful, prosecutors said.
According to authorities, Mothershead admitted that she administered eye medication and said that her daughter was a “fighter” when it came to the eye drops. She had no explanation for the head trauma, police said.
Detectives placed the child into protective custody.
When hospital staff members later opened the eye drops that Mothershead had been giving to her daughter, they noticed a foul odor. Detectives said they noted the odor as well, and the solution caused minor burning on a detective’s wrist.
Investigators sent the eye drops to the Food and Drug Administration’s forensic chemistry lab where scientists determined that the eye drops contained bleach. The staff at Harborview determined that the damage to the child’s eyes was consistent with repeated exposure to bleach, and ruled out the possibility that the eye dropper had been merely cleaned with bleach.
Dr. Avery Weiss of Seattle Children’s Hospital reviewed the case and determined that vision loss in the child’s right eye is permanent, and concluded that it would be years before the long-term damage could be fully assessed.