Kirkland, Wash. - Tonja Maciolek pleaded not guilty when she was arraigned on second-degree child- assault charges in a King County courtroom on Monday. According to prosecutors Maciolek beat and starved a 2-year-old boy under her foster care over a 10 -month period. When a doctor asked the toddler about a fracture to his left elbow he stated, "Mommy did it."
In August, investigators said Maciolek brought the boy to the ER at Evergreen Hospital. Maciolek said she brought him to the hospital because he complained of head pain and had vomited at dinner.
Doctors there were concerned about intracranial bleeding so they put him in an ambulance and sent him to Seattle Children's Hospital. Staff at Seattle Children's contacted law enforcement, suspecting the child's bruises and his head injury came were from child abuse.
"It seems completely out of character with the family I know," said Kelly Culbert who lives a few doors down from Maciolek in Kirkland. She is also a foster mother.
She said it's difficult being a foster parent.
"It's always challenging when a child comes to a home because they've been through the trauma of being removed from a home," Culbert added, “She liked the idea of giving another child the benefits of what she had for her own children.”
Maciolek was not home when we visited.
When Kirkland police investigators asked her if she had ever grabbed the boy by the arm, hard, and yanked on it she said, "Maybe, but I didn't intend on breaking anything." Investigators said she didn't deny hitting the child either, and said, "I wanted to when he first came."
Neighbor Pam Ford said Maciolek always seemed like a kind mother to her other daughter and to the rest of the neighborhood children. She said didn't have a reason to believe Maciolek would be capable of abuse.
"I'm totally shocked that that would happen because she seems like a very, very lovely lady," said Ford.
Doctors said the toddler withered away to only 21 pounds under Maciolek's care, which put him in the 1 percent category for his age.
"She expressed concerns about being able to help a child eat when they were accustomed to eating nothing but fast foods and sugars and candies," Culbert added, "She was looking for ways to encourage him to eat and to give him additional nutrients."
The toddler is now in the care of new foster parents. Court documents show he told them his 'mommy' broke his arm, saying "it hurt bad." He added, "Mommy Tonya hit my bottom really hard," and "Mommy Tonya hurt my ear too. She bent it."
Maciolek is free on $75,000 bail. She will appear before a judge on May 20.