A state District Court jury watched an emotional Baton Rouge woman Wednesday vehemently deny in a videotaped 2009 interrogation that she abused her 20-month-old stepson and intentionally burned him on the leg with a hot fork.
Charlotte Staggs told then-East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s Detective Joshua Celestin in an Aug. 28, 2009, interview that she placed a bowl of hot noodles on a coffee table and went into her kitchen for a drink when she heard the child scream.
“That was negligence on my behalf,” she said on the tape. “When I went back in the room, he had it (the fork) on his leg.”
Celestin, who sat in the witness stand just a few feet from Staggs while the videotape was played for the jury in her second-degree cruelty to a juvenile trial, questioned Staggs’ account during the 2009 interrogation.
He told her medical personnel indicated the fork would had to have been pressed down on the boy’s leg for several seconds to leave the imprint it left.
“That is not a glancing blow,” he said to Staggs on the videotape.
“Why would I do that to him?” Staggs asked in reply. “I would never hurt (him).”
“That (a photograph of the tines of a fork burned onto the boy’s leg) tells me differently,” Celestin insisted. “That is a pressed down fork.”
“I did not do that to him intentionally,” she answered. “I would not push a fork down on a baby. I couldn’t do it.”
“The only thing I can think of is you were at the end of your rope,” Celestin suggested to Staggs.
“No,” she shot back.
Celestin also pointed out the numerous bruises on the child’s body and said medical personnel indicated he was dehydrated and malnourished.
“That’s a hell of a lot of injuries,” the detective said during the interrogation, pointing to photographs of the boy taken at the hospital.
Staggs insisted she was not “rough” with any of her children. She also said she fed them three meals a day.
“I am not starving my children,” Staggs told Celestin.
“Just one,” the detective responded.
“None of them,” she said.
“I’ve seen cats bigger than that child,” Celestin continued.
“I would never harm a child,” Staggs said. “I do not hurt any of my kids.”
Steven Staggs, 29, the boy’s father, also is charged with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile, which carries up to 40 years in prison. He is scheduled to stand trial at a later date.
The state rested its case Wednesday against Charlotte Staggs, 25. She is expected to testify Thursday.
The boy is now in the custody of his maternal grandmother.
He was rushed to a Baton Rouge hospital on Aug. 23, 2009, after reportedly swallowing fingernail polish remover. He was malnourished, dehydrated, and had bruises and scrapes on his body,
State District Judge Mike Erwin is presiding over the trial.