Mom gets 40 years for putting bleach in infant daughter's eyes

TACOMA, Wash. -- A 31-year-old Buckley mother who repeatedly put bleach into her infant daughter's eyes was sentenced Friday to 40 years in prison.

Jennifer Mothershead was convicted last month of first degree assault of a child.

Mothershead's then-14-month-old daughter was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center on May 12, 2011 for a head injury, but doctors also found some bruising and eye infection, according to the statement of probable cause following police's year-long investigation.

Asked about the eye infection, the mother said her daughter's eyes had been swollen shut for about four weeks and that the issue began two months prior when her daughter got a scratch on her eye while playing in a barn, documents said.

She said her daughter was given antibiotics and eye drops for the infection, and that she was primary person to put them in her daughter's eyes as her husband had just recently filed for divorce. Court documents say she wanted the father's visits severely limited because of the baby's fragile eye condition and she was the main caregiver.

When the daughter was placed into protective custody at the hospital for the head injury, the mother said she needed to go get the eye drops from the hospital room.

Detectives said they would make sure the girl gets her proper medication, but when hospital staff later opened the container, they noticed a strong fumes smell that caused their eyes to burn, prosecutors said. A detective also investigated the bottle and noted the strong smell.

The bottle was sent out for testing and it was later determined to contain bleach, prosecutors said.

A doctor at Children's Hospital later told detectives the infant's eye infections were consistent with injuries caused by bleach, and whoever gave the initial diagnosis of a scratched eye was incorrect.

The girl's condition improved once removed from her mother's care, but doctors say her vision may never be normal and that some blindness in her right eye was permanent, documents said.

On Friday, a Pierce County judge handed down an exceptional sentence of 40 years in prison.