Police said a Connecticut woman seriously hurt her 5-year-old stepdaughter and then tried to cover it up by shooting staged videos to make it appear as though the girl caused her own injuries.
For months, the girl had been popping up in emergency rooms, once with an eye swelled nearly shut — an injury doctors said would have resulted from hair-pulling or blunt force trauma. But the girl and her stepmother claimed she did it to herself, beating her head against a bunk bed ladder. There were videos to show it.
But police said Felicia Marie O’Brien, 24, of East Hampton, staged them.
She has been charged with intentional cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor.
In August, the girl was taken to a hospital with injuries, according to a warrant cited by the Hartford Courant. The state’s child protective services got involved, telling police that bruises on her head and body did not line up with O’Brien’s version of what had happened, according to the warrant.
Both O’Brien and the girl said the 5-year-old had been hitting her head on the bunk bed ladder because voices in her head told her to do it. At the time, experts could not agree on an assessment, according to the warrant, so police could not intervene.
The next month, she returned to a hospital with wounds on her face.
The girl had a “very large and swollen bruise causing her eyes to swell shut,” which the warrant said would have been caused by hair-pulling or severe force. She also had a “finger-shaped bruising consistent with grabbing and squeezing” on her body.
She was transported to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
A doctor at the hospital watched the videos on O’Brien’s cellphone — showing the girl tapping her head to a bunk bed ladder — and told police that the footage looked fake, according to the warrant cited by the Hartford Courant. Tapping her own head to a bunk bed ladder, the doctor told police, would not have caused the severe bruising on her face.
The newspaper reported that while watching the videos on O’Brien’s cellphone, police investigators also found what appeared to be “outtakes.” In one clip, O’Brien instructed the girl to begin, and the 5-year-old started swinging her head between the bars, pretending to cause her own injuries. In another, O’Brien seemed to forget her line, calling out, “What are you…” and then pausing before she finished: “doing?” At the same time, the girl was tapping her head on the bars.
Police found a hole in the bathroom wall that matched the girl’s height and head size, alluding to where she may have sustained her actual injuries, according to the warrant.
O’Brien was arrested Wednesday and is being held on $250,000 bail.
O’Brien’s public defender was not immediately available for comment.