7 children taken from Eagle Mountain mother in abuse case

Date: 2010-03-24

By: Sara Israelsen-Hartley

Deseret News
Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 5:46 p.m. MDT
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EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Police arrested a mother who they say locked her adopted children in their rooms at night, forced them to stand for hours in timeout and abused one child so badly she needed part of her skull removed to relieve swelling on her brain.

Leslie Erickson, 48, of Eagle Mountain, was arrested Tuesday after her story about her 5-year-old recently adopted daughter's injury didn't match up with doctors' evaluations, according to a police report filed in 4th District Court.

Erickson told paramedics the girl had slipped on a rug in the bathroom and hit her head, police said. But doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center said the injury wasn't consistent with a fall and was similar to an unbuckled child hitting his head on a windshield during a car accident.

Erickson's attorney, Gregory Hawkins, said the state must act quickly when children are injured to ensure their protection, but at this point, there is no indication that this was anything other than an accident.

"What's happened to this little child is very tragic, but there's no evidence yet at all, that we've been able to uncover, that says it was caused by human beings," he said. "Surgery had to be done, so it's very dramatic result, but that doesn't mean the cause has any kind of evil behind it."
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He said Erickson has repeatedly submitted herself to scrutiny by public and state agencies in order to be a foster mother and to adopt children, and there have never been any concerns. The most recent adoption and review process was in October to adopt the 5-year-old girl, who came out of an abusive, drug-filled home, Hawkins said.

On Sunday, doctors were unsure if the girl would survive, according to police. By Wednesday, she was in critical but stable condition, although the long-term effects of her injury are unknown.

The girl also had marks on her neck potentially indicative of strangulation, plus several bruises all over her body, investigators said.

At a hearing Wednesday, police said a judge ordered the removal of seven children from Erickson's home, including the injured girl, pending an investigation.

Police said at one point Erickson picked up a 6-year-old adopted son, cursed at him and threw him down the stairs, the police report states.

Erickson also allegedly caught the 6-year-old and his 7-year-old brother sneaking jelly beans, so she forced them to eat an entire bowl of jelly beans and then gave them buckets in which to vomit, according to the report.

Any children who wet the bed were forced to stand for hours in the bathtub, and Erickson told detectives she disciplined the children by striking the bottom of their feet and toes with a belt, the report states.

Erickson was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of aggravated child abuse, obstruction of justice and false written statements and is being held on $50,000 cash-only bail.

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