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Mom given 4 years for child abuse

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, January 13, 2018
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A former Wise County resident was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday by a jury after it found her guilty of breaking her 1-month-old child in November of 2015.

Mainers

Rachael Michelle Mainers, 26, of Azle, formerly of Chico, was found guilty in 271st District Court of the state jail felony charge of criminal negligence injury to a child causes serious bodily injury. She had been charged by prosecutors with a second degree felony charge of injury to a child with intent to cause serious bodily injury, but the jury found her guilty of the lesser charge.

But the jury also found that Mainers used a deadly weapon – her hands – while causing the injury, which enhanced the punishment range to a third degree felony of 2 to 10 years in prison. She was also eligible for probation.

In addition to the 4-year sentence, the jury assessed the maximum $10,000 fine.

Mainers’ 28-day-old child, Connor, was injured at her Chico home on Nov. 16, 2015.

Britaney Foster, who worked for Child Protective Services at the time, testified that Mainers told her Connor woke up, so she laid the child on her bed. As she was reaching over to get a diaper, Connor rolled off the bed and landed face-down on the floor, Foster said she was told.

Foster said she was also told that Connor was fed and went back to sleep. Later that morning, Connor woke up crying, and Mainers noticed his left leg was making a popping sound, so they went to a doctor in Bridgeport.

Connor was transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth where X-rays revealed a spiral fracture, a complete break of the leg.

Christi Thornhill, a nurse practitioner who serves on the hospital’s CARE team (Child Advocacy Resource Evaluation), testified that the injury did not seem to be caused by Mainers’ version of events. Thornhill testified that month-old babies can’t roll over yet, and a fall from a bed would not cause the kind of break seen in the x-rays.

“It’s caused by a twisting motion of the bone,” Thornhill said. “From a child who can’t walk, that twisting must come from an outside source.”

She said she attempted to speak with Mainers about the child’s history and the incident that led to the injury, but she was never able to speak to the child’s mother.

Tony Gilliland, who worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocates advocacy supervisor at the time, testified that during a meeting to determine permanent placement of Connor the following April, Mainers told a CPS case worker about the night Connor was injured.

“She said she had caused the injury,” Gilliland said. “She said Connor was rolling off the bed and she went to grab the child.”

Thornhill was recalled to the stand and testified that it was unlikely that Mainers grabbing the child’s leg caused the break, since the child was under 10 pounds and his bones were not solidified enough yet to be injured by simpling grabbing the leg during a fall.

Mainers’ attorney, Ray Napolitan, asked Thornhill if it was possible that a panicked mother might have grabbed the child and tossed him back on the bed, accidentally causing the injuries.

“Anything’s possible,” she said.

Foster also testified that she went to Mainers’ home and looked at the bed where the alleged fall happened. She said the top of the bed was 24 inches above the floor, which was represented in the courtroom for the jury by a piece of duct tape located 24 inches up a door. Foster said she was initially told the bed was about as high as an examination table at a doctor’s office.

In his closing argument, Napolitan argued that Mainers shouldn’t be held responsible for an accident.

“Connor’s leg was accidentally broken, but accidents don’t give rise to culpable responsibility,” he argued.

It took the jury about three hours Wednesday afternoon to find Mainers guilty of criminal negligence causes serious bodily injury to a child.

The punishment phase of the trial began Thursday morning. Assistant District Attorney Jay Lapham provided the jury with information about Mainers’ previous assault conviction. According to court records, Mainers pleaded guilty to the Class A misdemeanor charge of assault causes bodily injury family violence in Parker County on Oct. 15, 2015, days before Connor’s birth. She received one year of community service.

In his closing argument, Lapham urged the jury to find that Mainers’ hands had been used as a deadly weapon and to sentence her to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

“If you bring a child into this world, you have a responsibility to do everything you can to take care of that child, and certainly to not hurt that child,” he said.

After three more hours of deliberation Thursday afternoon, the jury found that a deadly weapon had been used, and they delivered a four-year verdict along with the $10,000 fine.

Napolitan immediately submitted a notice of appeal and asked Judge Brock Smith to set an appeal bond. Smith set the bond at $40,000 and set several bond conditions, including reporting to Wise County adult probation at least once a month and having no contact with Connor.

Mainers was taken to the Wise County Jail following the trial and remained in jail Friday afternoon.

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