Mother cleared of child abuse charges

Date: 2015-03-03

By Matthew Glowicki

A Jeffersontown mother was found not guilty Monday on charges she abused her 5-year-old special needs son.

Rachel Tipton, 29, was acquitted on two charges of first and second degree criminal abuse. A Jefferson Circuit Court jury of eight women and four men deliberated for just over four hours Monday evening before announcing the not guilty charges. Judge Olu Stevens declared a mistrial on a lesser charge of criminal abuse after the jury announced they were unable to come to a unanimous decision.

Tipton and her pediatrician husband adopted the boy from Ethiopia when he was 11 months old.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Erin McKenzie tried to convince the jury that Tipton, a homemaker, hit the boy on his genitals with a wooden spoon, cut the inside of his mouth when force feeding him and was responsible for head injuries the boy sustained in 2013.

Defense attorney David Lambertus attacked the very basis of the abuse claims, calling into question the work of a "very busy, swamped, overwhelmed" social worker whose report served as a basis for the commonwealth's medical expert who opined the child had been abused.

He pointed out that the expert, child abuse pediatrician Dr. Deborah Lowen, never examined the boy, interviewed physicians close to the child or reviewed his medical records from Ethiopia.

Lambertus argued that medical records flatly ruled out abuse and that in the many years the child saw a battery of specialists and therapists, not a single one reported any signs of child abuse.

The defense presented a forensic pathologist Monday who was hired to evaluate the child's medical records.

Dr. George Nichols II, former chief medical examiner of Kentucky, concluded medical documentation did not indicate the child had been abused. Rather, groin area swelling and genital discomfort were due to an infection and a scratch from the family's dog Slugger, as well as the child's on-going medical issues, including genetic disorder neurofibromatosis.

The child took the stand last week and told jurors he was never hit with a wooden spoon and denied having pains in his legs from groin swelling.

The prosecution told jurors the case wasn't about whether the Tiptons loved their children or whether they were good people. Rather, it was about a mother at her worst moments, frustrated by a very needy child who often soiled himself and needed help performing tasks other children his age normally have mastered.

"Good people have bad days," she said Monday in closing arguments.

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