An Effingham County teenaged mother accused of abusing her infant son faces 20 years in prison for earlier incidents involving the same child.
Tina Richards, 19, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years plus another 12 months by Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Judge Gates Peed following a probation revocation hearing. Richards had been on five years’ probation for charges stemming from a July 2007 incident. Richards was convicted of one count of cruelty to children and one count of battery against her infant son Aiden Waller, now 11 months old.
“He sentenced her pretty harshly,” said Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. “I can understand why he did it. I’ve seen the pictures and the trauma.”
Richards was arrested in January for another report of alleged abuse involving Aiden. Judge Peed, upon seeing the photos from the January incident, meted out the maximum punishment.
“This is just the probation revocation,” McDuffie said. “We still have to adjudicate this case.”
Aiden Waller was rushed to Memorial Health University Medical Center after Richards was found in her yard carrying her child and reportedly told authorities she had slipped and fallen while carrying him.
Sheriff’s investigators discovered a child’s onesy sewn into a crib sheet and also thread and yarn sewn to restrain a child’s feet. She was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, cruelty to children in the first degree and cruelty to children in the second degree.
“In light of the extreme injuries to the child and in addition to the traumatic injuries to the brain, we recommend for her to serve the maximum sentence allowed by law,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew said.
Richards’ attorney asked the court to sentence her to five years. Richards, dressed in green prison coveralls, said she understood the charges and why she was in court Thursday.
McDuffie said the images of the photos stayed with him and the pictures revealed injuries “from the top of his head to the tips of his toes,” he said.
“Any time you see a baby hurt like that, it affects you,” he said.
The January case is expected to be presented to the grand jury. Should the grand jury return a true bill of indictment, Richards will be arraigned and a date for that trial would be set.
“She’s looking at a great amount of time,” McDuffie said. “She’s not going to be in a place where she can harm a child. She can’t get out and hurt baby Aiden anymore. She won’t have a part in his life anymore.”
He said Judge Peed’s decision also casts a statement about how seriously the judicial system takes crimes against children.
“The courts in Effingham County aren’t going to play with that,” McDuffie said. “If you’re going to harm a child, you’re going to face the consequences.”
Richards’ boyfriend, Phillip Waller, also has been charged with the January incident and has been held without bond. Aiden Waller is said to be improving and off life support.
Richards is also nine months pregnant and her appearance in court Thursday was delayed while a doctor examined her to make sure she was not having labor pains. She has been housed at the Effingham County Jail but will be transferred to state custody. Her baby, once delivered, will be placed in the custody of the state.
She is expected to give birth to another boy.