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Mom gets 20 years for smearing feces on daughter’s catheter PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steven Kreytak   

This story has been updated since it was originally posted with comments from prosecutor Rob Drummond and defense lawyer Bob Phillips.

A woman who police say was captured on video smearing feces on her 3-year-old daughter’s catheter pleaded guilty to injury to a child today and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

State District Judge Julie Kocurek sentenced Emily Beth McDonald, 25, under the terms of a plea bargain that McDonald, pictured below right, reached with prosecutors.



McDonald, who cried briefly during a short hearing, did not say anything before she was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies.

Outside court her lawyer, Bob Phillips, attempted to explain her behavior. Phillips said McDonald was “under extreme psychological stress” at the time of her crime, stress he said was brought on by factors including fatigue and depression.

He said that McDonald put feces on her daughter’s catheter while the girl was hospitalized because McDonald sought to elevate the girl’s fever, something she had hoped would make doctors continue an antibiotics regimen that they had planned to end.

“Obviously it was a criminal act, and it was wrongheaded, but it was done with a pure heart,” Phillips said.

Prosecutor Rob Drummond called McDonald’s behavior “medical child abuse,” something he said is very rare.

“It doesn’t have any other rationale than any other form of child abuse would have,” he said. “Our goal in this case was to protect Emily McDonald’s children and to hold her responsible.”

McDonald has three children under the age of 10 who now live with their respective fathers, Phillips said.

The girl victimized by the feces is “thriving and well and going to be fine,” Phillips said.

That girl was admitted to Dell Children’s Medical Center on April 15, 2009, with a high fever and “a long history of chronic diarrhea,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Blood tests came back positive for bacteria commonly found in feces.

Hospital officials eventually set up a hidden camera in the girl’s room after she continued to have setbacks in her recovery and after they had to replace her intravenous lines several times because of infections or clots, the affidavit said.

On May 31, 2009, hospital staff reviewed the footage and saw McDonald smearing feces on a cap to the girl’s central venous line, the affidavit said.

A central venous line is a catheter, often inserted into a patient’s chest or neck, that leads to a vein or directly into the heart. It allows the quick insertion of medication or fluids and allows monitoring of cardiovascular health.

McDonald told police that she had smeared feces on the line cap five times during her daughter’s six-week hospital stay, the affidavit said.

McDonald has been in and out of jail since her 2009 arrest. Since Thanksgiving she has been free on $100,000 bail. About a dozen family members, neighbors and members of her church accompanied her into court and sat behind the defense table in the courtroom gallery.

Phillips said that among them was her husband, who has stuck by McDonald.

“If this woman was an evil woman, then you’d expect the family and everybody else to abandon her.”

McDonald was scheduled to go to trial in Travis County next week. She had faced up to life in prison on a first-degree injury to a child indictment that had accused her of intentionally and knowingly causing serious bodily injury to her daughter by smearing her medical device with feces.

Instead she pleaded guilty to second-degree injury to a child — recklessly injuring the girl.

The state abandoned an allegation that McDonald used a deadly weapon, which if proved would have ensured that McDonald serve half of her sentence before being eligible for parole.

It is unclear now how long she must serve before being eligible for parole. Both Drummond, the prosecutor, and Phillips, the defense lawyer, said parole and good behavior rules are complicated and neither would estimate when that would be.


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