A Winston-Salem woman was convicted Wednesday on charges that she physically abused her 3-week-old daughter and did not seek immediate care for the infant.
Jodi Elizabeth Austin, 29, entered what is known as an Alford plea in Forsyth Superior Court to four felony counts of child abuse either by reckless act or negligent omission of care of the child. She was initially charged with four counts of felony child abuse, inflicting serious physical injury. An Alford plea means that Austin did not admit to the charges but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her if the case had gone to trial.
Judge Stanley Allen of Forsyth Superior Court consolidated the charges into two and sentenced her to serve eight to 19 months in prison. He gave her a suspended sentence of eight to 19 months and placed her on supervised probation for two years.
Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said in court that Winston-Salem police received a report about possible child abuse on Dec. 13, 2017.
Austin’s daughter, who was 3 weeks old at the time, was brought to Brenner Children’s Hospital that day with bruises around her rib cage. The baby also had swelling on her shoulders and arms, Chavious said.
After further examination, doctors determined that the baby had fractures of both of her clavicles and multiple fractures of her rib cage. She also had fractures on her legs that were caused by either jerking or twisting with force, Chavious said.
Doctors ruled out bone and blood diseases as causing the injuries, she said. There’s no other explanation for the injuries except that they were inflicted on the child by someone, she said.
Austin denied that she abused her child, and said several adults lived in the house with her, including the man who had initially been named as the biological father of her child. However, Chavious said Winston-Salem police interviewed family members, who said Austin was the primary caregiver of the child.
Ron Short, Austin’s attorney, said Austin has no criminal record and she has other biological children. There’s no record of her abusing any of her other children, he said.
Chavious said that the Forsyth County Department of Social Services has opened investigations into the care of Austin’s other children.
Austin’s father, David Austin, said he is baffled by the charges and added that he has known his daughter to be a wonderful mother.
“There’s not a history of anything like this,” he said.