2 children hospitalized with serious injuries; 3 arrested for aggravated child abuse
SALT LAKE CITY — Police say two children have been hospitalized with multiple, serious injuries and three adults have been arrested on several counts of aggravated child abuse.
Officials with the Salt Lake City Police Department said their investigation started Tuesday after the children, ages 6 and 17, were taken to the emergency room at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Police said the children were left in the care of the three suspects for four weeks and the mother discovered her children had suffered extensive injuries when she picked them up.
“The parents of these children had left them in the care of some people they knew. So, this wasn’t a stranger thing. It was some individuals that they knew, that they had known for quite some time and they needed assistance taking care of the children for a bit of time,” said SLCPD Detective Michael Ruff.
“And unfortunately, during that time these children were severely abused.”
According to court documents, the injuries included fractured vertebrae, bruises, puncture wounds and injured ribs.
This case is awful. A man and 2 women are in jail, each booked on 19 counts of aggravated child abuse. The 2 victims are siblings and still in the hospital. @KSL5TV https://t.co/hg5H9r1vCu pic.twitter.com/mEDjzUDNjj
— Matt Rascon (@MattRasconNews) July 14, 2022
Detectives said the 6-year-old also had a burn on his face, lacerations to his kidney and liver, and bruising and swelling around his genitals.
The 17-year-old told police the three suspects “held (him) down, punched him in the groin, stabbed him with a knife and beat him with a pipe.”
The 6-year-old also identified one of the suspects who participated in the abuse, according to court documents.
Police interviewed 32-year-old Laurie Hackett, 31-year-old Randee Coon and 52-year-old Kerri Pavlica, and detectives said Coon and Hackett, after being read their Miranda Rights, admitted that all three had participated in or knew of the abuse.
According to court documents, Coon admitted to hitting the victims and seeing the other two suspects do the same.
Coon also admitted to choking one of the victims, “having knowledge that the tip of a torch lighter was used to burn one of the victims,” and that scissors were used as punishment if the victims couldn’t maintain a pushup position.
During her interview, police say Hackett admitted to touching a victim’s face with the torch but said it was accidental. She also admitted to striking one of the victims with a metal bar and seeing Pavlica bind one of the victim’s wrists with rope.
According to court documents, the trio discussed fleeing and was found in a newly-purchased van and had abandoned their previous vehicle.
All three suspects were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on 19 counts of aggravated child abuse each. Each count is a second-degree felony.
Doctors are continuing to evaluate the two victims. Police say their injuries are extensive and will require further care from medical professionals.
Pressed on whether the parents are being looked at in the investigation, Ruff told KSL TV, “In this case, it doesn’t appear the parents had any involvement. They were doing what they felt was best and what they needed to do and unfortunately we had three people who took advantage of these children and abused them.”
He added that “the investigation is still ongoing but as of now the focus of this investigation is the three individuals we booked into jail.”
The suspects are well known to each other, and all lived together, according to police.
“This is somewhat unusual. We don’t see very many cases where we have this severe form of child abuse, obviously. It’s fairly rare,” Ruff said.
He said all child abuse cases are difficult to investigate and are all referred to special victims unit detectives, who are trained in how to interview children, how to deal with injuries and how to provide resources.
“This was some pretty serious and horrific abuse that went on. These children are going to need some care in the hospital for some time,” he said.
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