Two Durango residents have pleaded guilty to abusing a child to the point that the child is likely to remain in a persistent vegetative state, according to court records.
Andrea Wyne, 35, and Morgan Abbey, 35, pleaded guilty to a Class 4 felony charge of child abuse.
Wyne permitted the child to be placed in a situation that posed a threat of injury to life or health that resulted in serious bodily injury, according to her plea agreement, signed Feb. 13. She faces probation to 90 days in jail.
Abbey caused serious bodily injury to the child, according to the plea agreement. “Further, as a result of the victim’s injury, she is likely to remain in a persistent vegetative state,” according to the plea agreement he signed Feb. 13. He faces probation, community corrections or four to 12 years in prison.
Both are set for sentencing at 9 a.m. May 10 in 6th Judicial District Court in La Plata County.
According to an arrest affidavit, the 4-year-old child suffered substantial bruising and brain bleeding as a result of child abuse. The child was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center in January 2018 unconscious and seizing. The child was flown to Denver to receive a higher level of care. The injuries were considered life-threatening.
Police say Abbey spanked the child with a collapsible metal baton and pulled the child’s feet out from under her, causing her head to hit the ground and a wall. It was one of many instances of child abuse police discovered in their investigation, according to the affidavit.
Wyne and Abbey told police the day of the incident that the child’s injuries were the result of roughhousing between siblings and accidents around the house, according to the affidavit. But police had their doubts, especially because Abbey was the suspect in a similar incident in 2009 that left a 3-month-old child with a broken arm and brain bleeding, the Durango Police Department wrote in its arrest affidavit.
Those familiar with the family poked holes in Wyne’s and Abbey’s story, saying the parents have a history of child abuse. Police interviewed the victim’s siblings, Abbey’s former partner, the child’s step-grandparent, people who knew the family from church and the doctor who treated the child on the Front Range.
The child’s step-grandparent said his grandchildren never roughhoused and that the child’s brother’s treated her “like a princess.” Abbey’s former partner said, “his behavior changed greatly,” when she told him she was pregnant, and that he made a statement about hurting the child if she didn’t get an abortion.
In an interview with police, the victim’s siblings described a pattern of abuse that became more severe when Abbey came into their lives. The children, when asked what happens when they get in trouble, said they’d get spanked with a belt, metal spoons, wooden spoons and the metal side of belts. Both the parents would hit the children in the face with the metal baton and a whip that hung on a wall in the living room, the children told police. Police found the whip while executing a search warrant at the home in the lower 100 block of Westwood Place.
The victim’s grandmother said the child had to sleep in a closet. Police found a bed inside a small closet that “appeared bent and in bad shape” during their search of the house.
Churchgoers who knew the family said the children would flinch when people moved a hand near their head, and that Wyne would scream at her children and hit them in the back of the head, according to the arrest affidavit.
Wyne told police at a hospital in Denver that her child had fallen into a wall, which caused the injuries. A doctor refuted that explanation for the injuries. Wyne also denied knowledge of extensive bruising to the child’s butt. Abbey, when asked for an interview by police, requested to speak with a lawyer before providing a statement.
Police were later notified of a 2015 Facebook post from Wyne that suggested potential child abuse.
According to the affidavit, the post reads, in part: “How the hell r u to get them to do what the (sic) need to without beating them half to death.”