Conecuh County couple charged in child abuse

Date: 2009-05-23
Source: al.com

CONNIE BAGGETT

EVERGREEN — A Conecuh County couple remained in jail in lieu of $1.5 million bail each Friday after authorities charged the foster parents with trying to kill a 2-year-old boy in their care.

Investigators said the boy remains in intensive care at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.

The child arrived May 11 in cardiac arrest, officers said, and medical workers said the boy was severely dehydrated. Doctors discovered the boy had a massive injury to his brain, and evidence of blunt-force trauma to his head and bruising on his body consistent with repeated intentional abuse, officers said.

Conecuh County District Attorney Tommy Chapman said he believes the case, in which the couple was caring for up to eight foster children at a time in their trailer, warrants an investigation into the foster care system in the county. And Chapman said if the state does not investigate, he will.

"This is likely the most horrendous child abuse case I have prosecuted," Chapman said. "This child certainly suffered."

Authorities arrested Joyce Ann Savage Sims, 41, and her husband, Lonnell Sims, 51, on Thursday after an investigation by Evergreen police and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators said officers responded to the Sims residence on Old Greenville Road at about 7:30 a.m. May 11 after a woman reported a child was not responsive.

Officers said they found the 2-year-old boy barely breathing and with a faint pulse. Emergency medical responders immediately called for Lifeflight, which took the boy to Sacred Heart, the officers said.

The child survived surgery, officers said, and after days of life support was breathing on his own Friday, though doctors told officials the child likely will need lifelong care due to significant brain damage.

Pediatric abuse specialist Dr. Randall Alexander told Conecuh authorities the damage was equivalent to the child being injured in an automobile crash or being dropped from a two-story building.

Investigators said Joyce Sims first said the child had a seizure while she dressed him for day care, then said he fell down stairs or fell from a swing, none of which explained the injuries. Officers said they believe the child likely had not had food or water for 48 hours prior to being hospitalized.

"Based on the information doctors provided us," Chapman said, "we authorized warrants for both foster parents, charging them with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery on a child."

Chapman called on state authorities to investigate the Conecuh County Department of Human Resources, writing a letter to state DHR Commissioner Nancy T. Bucker asking for a full review of foster parent selection, monitoring and training in the county.
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Chapman also asked that authorities research DHR efforts to place children with family members. Investigators said relatives of the 2-year-old and two siblings, also in the Sims' care, had sought custody but were blocked by DHR representatives.

According to a letter Chapman released Friday, if the state agency does not report findings in 60 days, Chapman will convene a special grand jury and conduct his own investigation.

Alabama DHR spokesman Barry Spear said he had not seen the letter, and could not comment.

Authorities said 2-year-old and his siblings had been removed from their home by DHR in January due to their biological parents' alleged drug use. Their biological father died weeks ago of an apparent drug overdose and their mother has been in a rehabilitation program, officials said.

Two other children also were in the Sims' care at the time of their arrest. All have been removed from the household, investigators said. Officers said the state agency pays about $230 a month per child for foster care.

Photographs of the home showed a well-kept house with several televisions, one wide-screen TV and several rooms with twin beds. A small area in the back yard separated by a chain-link fence contained plastic toys and swings with overgrown grass and fire ant beds. A tall privacy fence concealed the play area in the back of the house.

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If it occurred early morning

If it occurred early morning hour look like one of the parents should have been at work. Maybe only one did it and the other one is trying to cover. If one is innocent they need to come clean.

Not Believing This

I personally do not believe these aligations. First of all it would depend on how high the swing was, secondly if he did fall out of it and it hit his head hard enough it could trigger seizures and cardiac arrest that is possible to have also been a long ago injury that the fall could have triggered the cardiac arrest later. Look it up on the net guys it is possible. But if there was all this abuse in the house someone from a small town agency would have noticed. If the kids were in day care the day care would have seen or noticed signs. Where are all these bruises that just mysteriously appeared. If there were other kids in the house Hello what do they have to say about this?
Though this sound spretty damning I see too many loop holes in this particular story and I really hope that a thorough investigation is done on it and not just the word of some cops.

Anonymous Sickened To Her Stomach!

For what it's worth...

According to the article: 

Pediatric abuse specialist Dr. Randall Alexander told Conecuh authorities the damage was equivalent to the child being injured in an automobile crash or being dropped from a two-story building.

Investigators said Joyce Sims first said the child had a seizure while she dressed him for day care, then said he fell down stairs or fell from a swing, none of which explained the injuries. Officers said they believe the child likely had not had food or water for 48 hours prior to being hospitalized.

Dehydration can happen quickly in an infant/child.  Severe dehydration can cause seizures, permanent brain damage or death.

Is This For Real?

They state that there were other chilfren in the house if this was happening to a two year old all of this beating, why didn't they hear any screaming and crying? I have to agree seems fishy to me!

Sad Astonished & Speechless After Reading The Other Comments!!!

Plainly I see after reading the comments posted prior to mine how children are repeatedly are abused and why they have to suffer so much before someone steps in to do anything to help them. Everday children are screaming to be saved and people dismiss their marks, inappropriate behavior and illness with excuses and "if statement" or simply close their eyes. People please stop and think. Personally, I work in this field. This isnt new. This is a product of people getting into foster care for the wrong reason and a product of people becoming overwhelmed and not seeking assistance. People are broke these days and they are taking in more children to obtain more money as they get paid very little. Again, I encourage you to think or pretend that you are care about children for just one second. These professionals have nothing to gain by disclosing the statments they have but to hopefully prevent this catastrophe from occuring with other children. The professionals see both children that have injuries that DID and DID NOT come from abuse DAILY. If you read the entire passage you will understand that the woman's story was inconsistent and the injuries are excessive and could not have been obtained in the manner she indicated. You are ready to place the blame on the other children in the home? WOW, I am really speachless as to how as adults we are ready to blame others when even if injury was inflicted on the child from another child in the home it was the foster parents responsibiilty to ensure the safety and well being of the child regardless. They are responsible either way be it them physcially abusing the child themselves or through neglect of protecting him from the physical harm of others. Are you people crazy? Do either of you have a dog or cat? If this child was a dog or cat you would be calling PETA and all other animal rights organizations. As a people have we really stooped to treating our animals better than our children? If that is the case lets just use the broad category of "animal". They were rsponsible for this child (animal if they happen to mean more to you) "PERIOD". These injuries occured under their watch and THEY ARE responsible. You dont have to agree but it doesnt change the fact it is true. This sickens me and people who rationalize the behavior of people who hurt children sicken me. I could go on but ultimately the childs injuries speak volumes. No matter what, the baby didnt do that to his self.

It's true

I hope those foster parents rot in hell

Pound Pup Legacy