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Mother sentenced to 40 years for bleaching child's eyes

Jennifer Mothershead, 31, received an exceptional sentence of 40 years in prison after a jury found her guilty on October 4, 2013 of Assault of a Child in the First Degree. The defendant repeatedly put bleach into her daughter's eyes, causing permanent vision loss in the child's right eye.

In May 2011, the 14 month old victim was airlifted to Harborview after suffering a head injury. Hospital staff noticed that a previously diagnosed eye condition had worsened to the point that the victim was sleeping 20-22 hours per day because exposure to sunlight was extremely painful. The defendant admitted that, as the victim's primary caregiver, she administered her eye medication. The defendant said that her daughter was a "fighter" when it came to the eye drops. She had no explanation for the head trauma. Detectives placed the child into protective custody.

Hospital staff members noticed a foul odor when they opened the eye drops that the defendant had been using on her daughter. Detectives noted the odor as well, and the solution seemed to cause minor burning on the detective's exposed wrist.

The eye drops were sent to the Food and Drug Administration's Forensic Chemistry Lab. Scientists determined that the eye drops contained bleach. The staff at Harborview concluded that the damage to the victim’s eyes was consistent with repeated exposure to bleach.

Dr. Avery Weiss of Seattle Children's Hospital reviewed the case and determined that vision loss in the child's right eye is permanent, and concluded that it would be years before the long-term damage could be fully assessed.

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