A St. Albans woman has been convicted of depraved assault among other crimes after her 19-month-old foster son was discovered to have sustained severe burns to his legs following being scalded by the mother, says District Attorney Richard Brown.
The defendant, identified as 35-year-old Shirley Verneus of 203rd St. in St. Albans, Queens, was convicted of first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, and endangering the welfare of a child after a two-week trial by jury. Verneus is due back in court for sentencing Apr. 12 where she faces up to 25 years in prison.
According to the charges, Verneus brought the child to a routine visit on Jan. 17, 2014 with the then 19-month-old’s biological parents at the St. Christopher Ottile Foster Agency. A caseworker noticed the child’s legs were wrapped in bandages and asked Verneus what had happened.
Verneus said that she heard the child screaming from another room of the house when she found the boy sitting in the bathtub with the hot water running. She claimed that she removed the boy from the bathtub and noticed that his skin was peeling off before taking him to a medical clinic. However, Verneus couldn’t provide any record of the visit nor did she report the incident to the foster care agency.
The day of the visit with the child’s biological parents, the child was taken to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Burn Unit with second and third degree burns. Further examination revealed that the child will suffer permanent scarring. He will also need physical therapy because of the severity of the burns. Additional medical evidence also confirmed that Verneus did act in a reckless manner by not seeking medical attention for over a week resulting in further complications, including the potential for life threatening infections.
“As a caregiver with the sole responsibility for the life and safety of a young child, the defendant had an obligation to provide a safe environment and to keep him from harm,” Brown said in a statement. “Instead she has been convicted of acting in a depraved manner by allowing the child to sit in scalding hot water.”