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Vernal mother charged with child abuse

Vernal mother charged with child abuse

(Uintah County Sheriff's Office)


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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VERNAL — Detectives say a Uintah County woman with a prior child abuse conviction knowingly allowed her husband to inflict a life-threatening head injury on the couple's 7-year-old son.

Karysa Marie Smith was charged Wednesday in 8th District Court with child abuse, a second-degree felony, and obstructing justice, a class A misdemeanor. A judge also issued a $10,000 warrant for her arrest.

The charges were filed one week after prosecutors charged 32-year-old Adam Joshua Smith with child abuse, a second-degree felony.

The Smiths' son was treated for a head injury on April 4 at Ashley Regional Medical Center. They told doctors the boy had fallen down a flight of five ceramic stairs at home, according to probable cause statements filed in both cases by Uintah County sheriff's detective Dan Bruso.

The boy was treated and released from the hospital, but was brought back on April 9 after a Division of Child and Family Services caseworker noticed more severe bruising, investigators said.

A CAT scan showed a large amount of blood under the boy's scalp, Bruso wrote. A forensic nurse who examined the boy said the injury can cause a substantial risk of death for a child and was "difficult to explain by a fall down five stairs," the detective wrote.

The child also had "a very large number of bruises" on other parts of his body that led the nurse to determine he was the victim of physical abuse, according to the probable cause statement. Investigators removed the boy and his sister from their parents' custody on April 9.


Karysa said, 'If my husband was like that, I would leave him in a heartbeat, but he's not.' 'The worst he does is yell.'

–Dan Bruso, investigator


During an interview, the boy told investigators his father kicked him in the face, causing his head to hit a gun safe, Bruso wrote, adding that the child said "his father did this several times."

Adam and Karysa Smith also "beat" or "spanked" their child with a belt, according to charging documents. Investigators said when they showed Karysa Smith photos of her son's injuries, she told them she was "not aware of the bruising or injuries."

When asked who disciplined the couple's children, Karysa Smith allegedly told detectives that she and her husband shared that responsibility. She said they would send their kids to bed, make them stand in a corner or give them "just a little pat," the charges state.

Karysa Smith, 25, also allegedly told detectives that her husband had never hurt their son.

"Karysa said, 'If my husband was like that, I would leave him in a heartbeat, but he's not,'" Bruso wrote. "'The worst he does is yell.'"

A search warrant was executed at the family home, and detectives said they recovered items that corroborate the boy's account of the alleged abuse. During a subsequent interview, detectives said Karysa Smith admitted that she heard her son screaming and saw her husband "beating (their son) with a belt" on April 4, the charges state.

"Karysa said that while she was not in the room, Adam yelled for her, saying that they need to take (their son) to the hospital because the 'whole top of his head was swollen,'" Bruso wrote. "Karysa went to the back bedroom and saw (the boy's) head was 'swollen pretty bad.'"

Previous case

Court records show this is not the first time Karysa Smith has been accused of abusing her son.

In June 2014, she pleaded guilty to child abuse, a class B misdemeanor, after admitting that she hit the boy with a vacuum cleaner. The abuse came to light after the child, who was 5 years old at the time, showed up to school in December 2013 with a black eye, according to court records.

As part of Smith's deal with Uintah County prosecutors, a judge ordered her guilty plea held in abeyance for 12 months, so long as she completed parenting classes, paid a $150 court fee and had no new criminal violations. A conviction on either of the charges filed Wednesday would violate the terms of the deal.

DCFS was still working with the family after the 2013 case when the new allegations surfaced last month, according to detectives. DCFS spokeswoman Ashley Sumner, in an email to KSL-TV on Wednesday wrote: "Research demonstrates that when safely possible, a child experiences less trauma by remaining with his/her family.

"In order to determine whether or not a child can safely remain in their home, a multidisciplinary team of professionals utilize evidence-based assessments to evaluate the child and family," wrote Sumner, who could not comment specifically on the Smiths' case due to DCFS policy.

"If the child can safely remain home based on this assessment, the team works with the child and family to develop an individualized plan that implements needed supports, services and requirements," Sumner added. "In order to ensure the safety of the child, the family is closely monitored by Child and Family Services throughout the entire process."

Court records show Karysa Smith bailed her husband out of jail following his May 13 arrest. A preliminary hearing in Adam Smith's case is set for June 3. Court records do not list an attorney for Adam or Karysa Smith.

Photos

Geoff Liesik

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