A Rhea County, Tennessee, woman charged in 2019 for burning a toddler's feet with scalding water as discipline was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday on a guilty plea to aggravated child abuse.
Jennifer E. Vaughn, 54, was charged Aug. 19, 2019, with aggravated child abuse. Then she was charged with aggravated child neglect in October 2019, as part of the same investigation.
In Wednesday's plea in Rhea County Circuit Court, Vaughn was sentenced to 20 years without parole, according to 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney David Shinn, who prosecuted the case.
The charges were leveled against Vaughn after a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl showed up at Children's Hospital Erlanger with "sock burns" that left her requiring numerous skin grafts, Rhea County Sheriff's Office Detective Rocky Potter said at the time of Vaughn's arrest in 2019. Authorities said the burns are so named because of their location.
In 2019, Potter described the toddler's injuries as "just unreal" and said the child's mother, who is not Vaughn, found her daughter "with the skin all blistered and bubbled up on her feet and ankles."
Vaughn, a relative of the victim, was represented by 12th Judicial District Public Defender Jeff Harmon.
"It was a tough case that was resolved to the satisfaction of both sides," Harmon said. "This is listed as a violent 100% sentence, but a person on a 100% sentence can earn up to 15% [off the sentence] for good behavior."
The little girl, now 4 and living with relatives, has significant scarring but is walking with ongoing problems stemming from painful nerve damage to her feet and "still deals with emotional trauma from the abuse," Shinn said.
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