Court: Mother pleads not guilty to burning, bruising 3-year-old girl

Sarah Robinson

Jenna Nicole Peterson
Jenna Nicole Peterson

Officials said a 3-year-old girl will not have full use of her hands “over the years” after she suffered second- and third-degree burns on both hands.

Jenna Nicole Peterson, the child’s mother, pleaded not guilty Thursday in court to one count each of first-degree cruelty to children, aggravated battery and battery causing physical visible harm.

Peterson, 25, told police she walked into the girl’s bedroom Jan. 12 and found the girl playing in her own feces, officials said. The mother said she took the child to the bathroom and left her to clean herself up, according to detectives.

“She said she went back to … clean the bedroom up and that’s when she noticed her child hollering back there,” Detective Jessie Knight testified. “She said she seen her wrists and thought it was a rubber band around it, but then she finally realized that it was her skin that was peeling.”

Columbus Police said they were called to the Midtown Medical Center after the victim arrived at the hospital with second- and third-degree burns on both hands and bruises on her mouth, torso, buttocks and private area.

She was flown to a burn center for further treatment. Doctors say that the child will not have full use of her hands “over the years” because of the seriousness of the burns, Knight testified.

“She stated that the injuries to the child were severe,” Knight said. “She said it was ring around both wrists and that the child had been submerged in water or put underwater.”

Police later conducted a search warrant at the 200 20th Ave. apartment and tested the water in the hot water heater.

“It came back 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 122 degree Celsius, for the temperature of that water,” Knight testified.

Police said they also determined that the child was too short to reach the faucet handle by herself.

The girl was released from the burn center Feb. 1 and taken to a foster home. When police conducted an interview with the victim, she stated that her mom “put a lot of bruises on her, and held her hands under water.”

“She stated that her mom had hit her in the mouth during that process, and also hit her in the private,” Knight told the court.

Peterson was arrested on outstanding warrants at 8:40 a.m. Monday at her apartment.

The mother of four admitted in court to striking the girl as a form of punishment.

“I did tell him upon his interview that I did punish my child before telling her to wash her hands,” Peterson testified. “I told them that I whooped her butt. I always use my hand on my child.”

Peterson’s charges were bound over to Superior Court, and she was given bonds totalling $11,000.

— Sarah is a crime & safety reporter at The Ledger-Enquirer. You can contact her on Twitter at @SarahR_92.