Mother accused of neglect when child she doesn't know is hurt - Tucson News Now

Nashville mother accused of neglect when child she doesn't know is hurt

Sheila Barnett Sheila Barnett

A Nashville woman says she was at a friend's house when a child was injured, and she was then charged with a felony.

Sheila Barnett says not only did she not know the child, but she never even touched the child. Even the district attorney admits she didn't know or touch the child.

But Barnett is now facing 15 to 25 years in prison, and she and her lawyer are going public with an incredible story.

Barnett has lived an honest life as a single mom with a steady job, taking care of two honor-roll kids.

"Trying to live the American dream, as we all are, but that has been disrupted," Barnett said.

The disruption is that Barnett has been charged with felony aggravated child neglect.

"I've lost sleep. I've had panic attacks," she said.

So, what happened? Last year, Barnett went to a friend's house to use the kitchen for a catering event. There were five adults at the house and a couple of small children.

"I did see the children, but I didn't know them and didn't ask. A little later on I learned it was her great-niece and nephew," Barnett said.

While Barnett was in the kitchen, something happened to one of the children's mouth. Somehow, the boy's tongue was cut, and there was blood.

The people watching the child couldn't get a hold of either parents. And when police sorted it out, every adult in the house was arrested for either child abuse or child neglect.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Holgrem asserts Barnett and the other adults delayed seeking medical care for the injury to the point where it couldn't be sutured by the time the child was actually seen by a doctor. Holgrem said that count alleges serious bodily injury.

Barnett's lawyer Sam Wooden argues it wasn't her role.

"If you don't know the child, you don't know the child's mother, who are you to be telling them what they should do with the kid?" Wooden said.

Wooden asked Judge Steve Dozier to dismiss the charges.

"Ms. Barnett did not ask, nor did she agree to babysit, supervise or attend to the child in this case. The state admitted that's, in fact, true and undisputed," Wooden said. "How do you neglect someone you don't know, have never met and have no ties to?"

But Dozier did not dismiss the case. Instead, he wrote, "additional proof could be established at trial and that there is not enough proof for a dismissal."

The charges stand, and Barnett is scheduled for trial in February 2014.

"This is the case I lose sleep about at night. And it's not every once in a while, it's every day," Wooden said. "It's really astonishing for me."

"I start thinking about my children. I'm a single mother. I'm all they have," Barnett said.

This is a pending case, so the district attorney's office cannot make any comment on it outside of what's in the record.

Barnett said she never dreamed of going public with this but is now desperately trying to avoid prison.

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