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Say Foster Mom Scalded Toddler

DA: Child Suffered Permanent Scarring

A St. Albans woman has been charged with assault and other crimes after her 19-month-old foster son was discovered to have been severely burned on his lower extremities during a scheduled visit with his biological parents earlier this year.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown identified the defendant as Shirley Verneus, 35, of 203rd Street in St. Albans, who was arraigned last Tuesday, June 3, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Donna M. Golia on charges of first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Verneus, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, was ordered held on $100,000 bond/$50,000 cash bail and to return to court on June 16.

“As a caregiver with 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-which she is accused of failing to fulfill in this case,” Brown said. “The child will be permanently scarred-both physically and emotionally-by the experience.”

According to the charges, Verneus brought her then-19-month-old foster son to the St. Christopher Ottile Foster Agency, located at 89-30 161st St. in Jamaica, on Jan. 17 for a scheduled visit with his biological parents. During the visit, it is alleged that a St. Christopher caseworker observed bandages around the child’s legs and asked Verneus what had happened to the child.

Verneus, who is the child’s sole caretaker, allegedly stated that she was in another room inside her St. Albans home and heard the child- who was in the bathroom unattended with a three-year-old-screaming. Verneus allegedly told the caseworker that she observed her foster son sitting in the bathtub with the water running.

It is alleged by Verneus that when she removed the child from the tub she observed his skin peeling off. Verneus allegedly told the caseworker that she took her foster son to a medical clinic but she could neither provide any information or documentation regarding such a visit nor did she report the injury to the foster care agency.

It is additionally alleged that the then-19-month-old was taken later that day from the St. Christopher Ottile Foster Agency to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Burn Unit, where medical personnel stated that he suffered second- and thirddegree burns from the top of his thighs down to the soles of his feet on both legs and burns on his buttocks. Reportedly, the nature and severity of the burns were consistent with their having occurred approximately one week to 10 days earlier than Verneus claimed.

Medical staff also allegedly said that the nature and extent of the untreated burns would have caused the child extreme pain and that he will require a number of surgeries as a result of the injury. A further examination by medical personnel at Weill Cornell indicated that he will suffer permanent scarring and will require physical therapy as a result of the burns, and that the alleged failure of Verneus to seek prompt medial attention for the child’s burns increased the severity of the injuries and created the potential for lifethreatening infections and other serious complications.

The investigation was conducted by the NYPD Queens Special Victims Squad-specifically, Det. Kimberly Wylie-under the supervision of Sgt. Douglas Bistardi and Chief Michael Osgood.

Assistant District Attorney Leigh Bishop, chief of the District Attorney’s Child Fatality Unit, is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kenneth M. Appelbaum, chief of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, and under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Major Crimes Charles A. Testagrossa and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Major Crimes Daniel A. Saunders.

It was noted that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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