A Portola couple was arrested last week on charges of cruelty to a child.
Jessica Nicole White, 22, and Eric Charles McDowell, 20, were charged with causing traumatic brain injuries to White’s 2-year-old daughter and allowing her to suffer before seeking treatment.
The injuries the girl sustained on Oct. 3, 2012, caused swelling on her brain and required emergency brain surgery at UC Davis Medical Center. The 2-year-old spent several weeks under intensive care after the surgery. She is reportedly still suffering partial paralysis.
According to a joint press release from the Plumas County sheriff and district attorney, UC Davis surgeons said the child’s injury was caused by blunt-force trauma. The surgeons said it was not a case of “shaken baby syndrome” or some type of medical condition.
According to Sheriff’s Investigations Sgt. Steve Peay, both White and McDowell were interviewed several times after the incident “and have offered no plausible explanation as to how the child received such an injury that would cause her condition.”
White and her husband, McDowell, were arrested at their Portola residence at 349 W. Loyalton Ave. No. 19. They were transferred to the Plumas County jail and held on $50,000 bail. They were scheduled to be arraigned in Plumas County Superior Court on Monday, March 4.
White is the girl’s biological mother. McDowell is her stepfather. The girl is now in the custody of her biological father.
The arrest followed a joint investigation by sheriff’s detectives and the district attorney’s office.
According to their report, sheriff’s dispatchers received a 911 call at 11:41 a.m. from McDowell, reporting that his stepdaughter was unresponsive and limp but was breathing.
Fire and medical personnel responded along with a deputy and arrived at 11:44.
The deputy was the first on scene and noticed that, in addition to the girl being unresponsive, her face was swollen.
White reportedly told the deputy that he found the girl in that condition when he awoke at 11:30 a.m.
Fire and medical personnel arrived and quickly transported the girl by ambulance to Eastern Plumas Health Care in Portola.
As they were treating her, doctors at the hospital said the child’s condition “may have been caused by abuse.”
The girl was transported to UC Davis where doctors performed emergency brain surgery to relieve swelling.
Detectives interviewed doctors and surgeons as part of their investigation. The doctors said, “The injury to the child’s head was a traumatic brain injury caused by blunt-force trauma.”
During follow-up interviews and investigation, neither White nor McDowell said they hurt the girl.
District Attorney David Hollister reviewed the case and arrest warrants were issued on Feb. 28.
The sheriff and DA said anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact the Plumas County Sheriff’s Investigations Unit at 283-6363.
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