A 29-year-old mother convicted last week of breaking her 8-month-old son’s leg in two places has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Authorities say the infant’s dual fractures to his right leg led to the discovery his left leg previously had been broken, and had begun healing without medical care.
Yet another shocking discovery followed that: The mother had told her then-boyfriend, an Army combat veteran, that he was the boy’s father. After the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services took the boy from the mother and left him in the soldier’s care, a DNA test revealed it was not his son, so DFCS had to take the boy back.
That was the twisted tale a jury heard last week before finding Nicole Hines guilty of two counts of first-degree child cruelty, after about an hour’s deliberation Friday. Superior Court Judge William Rumer sentenced her to 10 years, with five to serve and five on probation.
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Assistant District Attorney Letitia Sikes said investigators believe the mother broke the boy’s left leg on Nov. 9, 2010, while living with the soldier in his Cusseta Road apartment. The soldier that day had worked at Fort Benning from 5 a.m. to around lunchtime, checked on the infant when he got home and then taken a nap. When he awoke about 6:30 p.m. and checked on the baby again, he saw the child’s right knee was swollen to the size of the man’s fist, and he was a big man, 6 feet 6 inches tall, Sikes said.
The mother feigned ignorance of the injury and called her father, who advised the couple to wait to see if the swelling abated. Meanwhile the soldier called his mother in Florida, who came to Columbus the next day to take the boy to a doctor.
An X-ray revealed the boy’s tibia bone was fractured just below the knee, and showed a second break at the ankle, an injury doctors described as a “bucket-handle” break caused by twisting the boy’s leg like swinging a bucket, Sikes said.
X-rays also showed the older fracture to the boy’s left femur, an injury physicians were unable to date precisely.
Police learned the mother was bipolar and susceptible to sudden rage while questioning the couple at the Public Safety Center, where the mother left where she was to be interviewed and eavesdropped as Detective Richard Campbell talked to the soldier, Sikes said.
When the soldier told Campbell that Hines was bipolar, she lost her composure and started screaming “It’s not your baby! It’s not your baby!” Sikes said. The DNA test confirmed this in January 2011.
The case was delayed as Hines had a psychological evaluation, and delayed again when the soldier was seriously wounded in Afghanistan, where a mortar hit a tower he was in, Sikes said. The blast occurred while he was on Skype with his mother, she said.
He now has two combat badges and a Purple Heart, she said.
He once had planned to marry Hines and adopt the boy and a 2-year-old sister, anticipating being reassigned to Hawaii, where he had hoped to take his new family with him. He also had planned to re-enlist to support his new wife and two children. All that has changed.
Hines has since had another child by another man, Sikes said. That girl is with her father now, and Hines’ other children are with their maternal grandparents, the prosecutor said.