A Columbus woman who allegedly abused a 5-year-old girl close to her Sunday in the Walmart Supercenter on Gateway Road appeared in Recorder's Court for a Tuesday afternoon hearing.
Alicia Spearman, 22, pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree cruelty to children in relation to the Walmart incident.
Spearman was originally charged with second-degree cruelty to children, but Recorder's Court Judge Mary Buckner upgraded the charge after Columbus Police Officer Francis Samra delivered his testimony.
The suspect was issued a $5,000 bond for the charge and placed in the Muscogee County Jail. The case was bounded over to Superior Court.
Samra said he was called to the Walmart Supercenter at 6475 Gateway Road Sunday at 7:05 a.m. in reference to a dispute.
The officer said he spoke with multiples witnesses who reported that Spearman punched the child in the face repeatedly, dragged her across the floor and shoved her on to to the floor. The child had no visible injuries following the incident, so medics were not called to the scene, Samra said.
A witness told the judge that she is not the child's legal guardian but has been caring for the child since she was 2 years old.
The woman said she saw the 5-year-old child in the store with Spearman, but the girl ran to her with excitement once she spotted her in Walmart. The girl allegedly embraced the woman and wanted to stay with her, and Spearman reportedly demanded that the child stop running.
Spearman allegedly grabbed the child with the intent to take her to the bathroom, according to the witness.
The witness said she told Spearman to just let the child stay with her, but the suspect reportedly refused.
"Alicia wasn't hearing that," the woman testified. "She said ,'She can disrespect you, but she's not going to disrespect me."
The witness said she gave up at that point and let the child head out of Walmart with Spearman. That's when the child started yelling loudly, and a Walmart customer said she would call police, according to the witness.
The family friend said she warned Spearman about another's threat to contact law enforcement and told Spearman to let the child stay with her.
"I turned around and the next thing I know [the girl] is being pushed towards me," the witness said. "The next thing I know everybody came out of everywhere...[The 5-year-old child] was screaming, "Please, help! Please, help me!"
Spearman left and security told the witness that she had to stay, because they saw some actions on the film that they "didn't like," the witness testified.
According to Samra, only part of the reported attack was captured on Walmart's security camera, because the victim and suspect were not in the camera's view the entire time.
"They only thing of consequence that you see in the video is Ms. Spearman dragging [the victim] across the floor," the officer said. "She falls several times."
After further investigation, Spearman was apprehended outside of her home in the 2000 block of Torch Hill Monday at 4:30 p.m.