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Montana Victims

2 Billings women charged with abuse of boy

By GREG TUTTLE
Of The Gazette Staff

Two Billings women are accused of burning an 18-month-old boy with cigarettes and causing other serious injuries that could prove fatal, a county prosecutor said at the women's court appearance Tuesday.

Stephanie Janie Plainbull, 22, and Mary Rose Plainbull, 49, were charged with felony aggravated assault by accountability for what Deputy County Attorney Laura Watson described as a "horrific" case of child abuse.

Swelling in the boy's head from a brain injury has caused him to go blind and he remains in critical condition at a Denver hospital. He is also being treated for other injuries that include a broken foot, third-degree burns and bruises that appear to have been caused by some kind of restraints, according to Watson and court records.

Some of the burn injuries were so deep that they exposed bone, prosecutors said in an affidavit. Other burn injuries appeared to be older injuries, and the boy had numerous burns on his abdomen and other areas of his body that appeared to have been made by a cigarette.
 
Watson said the boy may not survive the injuries.

"Apparently, he's just been incredibly abused over a significant period of time," she said.

The women, believed to be mother and daughter, appeared by video from the county jail, where they have been held since their arrest late Thursday. Judge Pedro Hernandez set bond for both at $50,000 and ordered them to appear Thursday for arraignment in District Court.

The women were arrested and booked into the county jail Thursday evening after bringing the boy to the emergency room at St. Vincent Healthcare. The boy, who has been identified only by his initials, was unconscious and not breathing. Medical staff revived him and called police.

Doctors said they found through a CT scan that the boy suffered an acute subdural hematoma, or bleeding in the brain. The scan of the boy's brain also appeared to show older injuries.

An emergency room doctor told police that the women did not respond when questioned about the injuries, or their responses were not consistent with the type of injuries the boy suffered, court records state.

Some of the boy's injuries could have been several months old, doctors told police.

When questioned by police, the women indicated they had been caring for the child at their home on Westchester Square since December. They said the boy fell down a lot, and explained that they had been caring for his injuries themselves because they were worried that they were not the child's guardian.

Stephanie Plainbull told an officer that the boy had been sick and vomiting, court records state, and he had fallen off a bed and was knocked unconscious before he was brought to the hospital. She said she had been caring for the child and her own young son for about a month.

After arresting the women, officers searched the women's home. The residence was dirty and officers said they found what appeared to be numerous cigarette burns on furniture and clothing, court records state. Officers also found what appeared to be bloodstains on the walls and bloodied gauze bandages that may have been secured to the boy with packaging tape.

Officers said they also found a notebook that described how the boy was disciplined with a stick when he cried. The notebook also included a passage indicating that one of the women disliked the boy's mother, court records state.



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