ELYRIA — A North Ridgeville woman pleaded guilty to a 15-count indictment in connection to the reported abuse of a 3-year-old girl.
James Collins, 35, appeared before Judge James Miraldi on Monday morning and pleaded guilty to the counts in the November 2016 indictment along with a supplemental indictment filed in December 2017. Collins faced four counts of second-degree felony felonious assault, seven counts of second-degree felony endangering children and four counts of first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence, according to court records.
Collins was accused of abusing the 3-year-old daughter of her boyfriend and co-defendant in the case, David Hickin, 35, also of North Ridgeville. Authorities were alerted to the abuse Sept. 24, 2016, when the child was brought to the emergency room for a broken arm and numerous bruises and marks were observed “covering her facial area, ears, nose, legs and pelvic area,” court documents said. The child was also missing patches of hair on her head.
The child began living with Collins and Hickin, along with Collins’ two juvenile daughters, after Hickin was awarded custody of his daughter.
The date the abuse was reported, Collins told police she had given the 3-year-old a bath and the child had started to “throw a tantrum.” Collins said she then spanked the child with her hand, but when it was pointed out the marks on the child’s legs were not made by a hand, she admitted she used a large plastic spoon and that it was “excessive,” and she “felt bad about it,” court documents said.
Collins told police that shortly after the spanking, the 3-year-old had fallen down the stairs and she had not realized the child was injured until they were watching television. Collins said she “felt something weird in (the child’s) arm and knew something was wrong.”
Investigators spoke with Collins’ daughters in September 2016, and the girls said they were not present when the injuries occurred to the 3-year-old, and they had never seen their mother abuse the child. The daughters eventually were placed in the custody of their aunt, and in August 2017 a case worker with Lorain County Children’s Services contacted investigators with new information on the case.
The girls told their aunt and their court-appointed guardian ad litem that they had both witnessed Collins abuse the 3-year-old and they had been ordered by their mother to participate in the abuse, court documents said.
One of the daughters said she had seen Collins push the 3-year-old down the stairs about five times, as well as slap, punch, push and pull the child by the hair. She also told investigators she saw Collins hold the 3-year-old’s head under water.
The other daughter told investigators she also witnessed Collins push the 3-year-old down the stairs. She also said Collins would tell her to smack the 3-year-old and put her in the corner. The daughter also said she saw Collins pull the child’s hair, push her down and make her stand in the corner doing “uncomfortable squats,” court documents said.
Prosecutors had planned on having the daughters testify against their mother during the trial and had filed a motion to have the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office facility dog Farley sit with the girls when they took the stand.
During the hearing Monday, Collins cried, shook and her voice cracked as Miraldi read off the counts of the indictment and the maximum sentences for each one. Collins could face a maximum of 56 years in prison, and she is scheduled to be sentenced by Miraldi on Dec. 13.
Hickin was indicted on charges of felonious assault, endangering children and domestic violence. His case is still pending.