UPDATE: Mother Burns Special Needs Child

Date: 2014-09-26

MANITOWOC, Wisc. (WFRV) A criminal charge of "physical abuse of a child intentionally causing great bodily harm" has been filed against a Manitowoc mom.

Manitowoc County District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre filed the charge against Ruthann Gneiser in Manitowoc County Court yesterday. If Gneiser is found guilty, she faces a fine up to $100,000 and/or a prison sentence up to 40 years.

Gneiser is accused of beating and scalding her 5-year-old son who has Downs Syndrome.

According to the criminal complaint, the Milwaukee Children's Hospital pediatrician who is treating the boy for his injuries says he has severe bruising and the amount of bruises are "too numerous to count". The doctor further states that a large bruise is on the top of the boy's skull. The pediatrician believes the bruises are from physical abuse.

A Lieutenant with the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department went to the home where the alleged beating and scalding took place. He tested the water temperature for the bathtub where the boy allegedly was scalded. The thermometer showed with hot water running the temperature was 140-141 degrees. With the hot water turned 3/4 open, the temperature was about 126 degrees. Somewhere between the 126 and full hot, the Lieutenant could only hold his hand in the water for a count of 2 one-thousand.

The criminal complaint states that the pediatrician believes the boy was not able to move away from the hot water, indicating that the child was being held down. The doctor also believes there could be a good chance of permanent scaring.

Here is more background on the story, posted yesterday morning on our website:
MANITOWOC, Wisc (WFRV) A 5-year-old Manitowoc boy is in Milwaukee Children's Hospital after receiving major scald burns to his body.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Manitowoc County Court, police were called to Aurora Medical Center in Two Rivers on Monday after the boy was brought in with scald burns to over 50% of his body and heavy bruising all over his back.

The responding officer observed the child's extremities, buttocks and his groin area wrapped in gauze. The child also had heavy purple bruising on his back.

Medical staff advised that the boy be taken immediately to Milwaukee Children's Hospital for emergency treatment.

According to the affidavit, the mother (identified as 31-year-old Ruthann Gneiser) was asked what happened to her son. She told authorities, "I should be in jail".

Ruthann said she got "as angry as I've ever been" at her son and began slapping him repeatedly on his back with her open hand. Ruthann stated that while she was screaming at and striking her son, the child defecated in his pants. She pulled him into the bathroom where she made him stand under the shower with the water set at the coldest temperature until "he got himself cleaned up". She also made him clean his underwear. The boy was under the cold water shower for 5-7 minutes.

The affidavit states Ruthann then made her son sit in the bathtub and continue cleaning his underwear while she changed the water from cold to hot. Ruthann stated her son sat under the hot water for about 1-1 1/2 minutes, resulting in the scald burns. She realized the water was too hot when she reached in to help her son and almost burned herself. When she was asked if her son was screaming during this, Ruthann stated "Sure he was, he was screaming when he was under the cold water too".

While this incident happened between 1-1:25pm, no medical attention was sought until about 4:30pm.

Not only was the boy 5 years old, but he also has Downs Syndrome.

He was scheduled to undergo surgery at Children's Hospital this past Tuesday.

According to Manitowoc County District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre, she is in the process of filing criminal charges against Ruthann. Ms. LaBre further states that, at last update, the boy has less than 50% scalding to his body.


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