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Couple in ‘heinous’ abuse case stay in jail

Posted: April 30, 2012 2:09 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2012 2:09 p.m.

A Kershaw County magistrate judge denied bond for a Lugoff couple arrested last week for abuse and neglect of a 4-year-old child.

Catharine Ammons, 24, and her live-in boyfriend, James Watson, 27, both of Lugoff, have been charged with unlawful neglect of a child; abuse/infliction of great bodily harm upon a child; and abuse/allowing another person to inflict great bodily harm upon a child.

According to information provided during a bond hearing Monday afternoon at the Kershaw County Detention Center, the couple took Ammons’ 4-year-old biological child to KershawHealth. They allegedly claimed the girl had fallen. KershawHealth personnel found the injuries were not consistent with the couple’s story and notified police. The couple allegedly coached the child to say that she “fell down a lot” before they sought medical attention.

Doctors reportedly placed the girl into an intensive care unit for immediate surgery on her elbow, which doctors could not perform due to the child’s low hemoglobin levels. Information provided during the hearing indicated the girl was then taken to pediatric care to recover. Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Sgt. Justin Dill told Kershaw County Chief Magistrate Rick Todd deputies will interview the child when she has recovered from surgery in several weeks. Dill said she has had one surgery to remove cysts from her pelvic region; the cause is unknown at this time.

“This is the most heinous crime I’ve seen with a child,” KCSO Capt. Chris Phillips said during the hearing.
Dill said doctors could not determine how far back wounds had been inflicted on the child. The 4-year-old suffered two broken arms, a broken leg, chest and throat wounds, a lacerated liver and general malnutrition. Deputies said when Watson saw the child grasping for assistance while walking, he would make her walk unassisted on her broken legs.

Dill and Assistant 5th Circuit Solicitor Ron Moak said wounds and bruises were found on the girl’s hands, feet and neck. They said the child was “severely beaten” and possibly choked. Moak said many of the child’s wounds were healing improperly and unattended, including calcified bones in her arms.

Dill told Todd that Ammons and Watson had lived together for approximately three weeks to one month.  Ammons reportedly held the child down, while Watson assaulted her, he said. Dill said Ammons was unemployed during the month she and Watson lived together while he drew disability; Watson rented the home he and Ammons lived in.

“The defendant’s actual reasoning for allowing the child to be beaten so severely was that she didn’t want to be the one to take the place of the child in the emergency room. She knew that she would be beaten instead of the child if she intervened,” Dill said.

Ammons told the judge she hadn’t left the house in a month and was afraid for her own life, so she let the child take her place, he said. Ammons said she has family nearby. Watson has several previous charges dating back to before 2003 for stalking and public disorderly conduct, and is currently on bond for racing on a public road and assault.
Officials said at the hearing that the child’s biological father, from Cassatt, has had no previous contact with the family. However, they said he did make contact with the hospital, but would not talk with law enforcement due to outstanding warrants.

Todd set a $100,000 for each unlawful neglect charge, but denied bail for each of the other charges against Ammons and Watson. A public defender represented Ammons; Watson either has or will seek private counsel.
Ammons’ daughter is currently under the care of the Department of Social Services, said DSS’ Jean Catoe. Although she is still investigating the case, Catoe told the judge Ammons and Watson have no outstanding DSS complaints.

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