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Ludowici woman on trial for allegedly scalding child to death
SarahHarris scaldingvictim
Sarah Harris - photo by Photo provided.
Erica Brennan’s murder trial began yesterday in Ludowici. Brennan, who is charged with the scalding death of her 8-year-old stepdaughter, Sarah H. Harris, appeared in the Long County Courthouse with her attorney, Jerry Word.
Attorneys for both sides issued opening statements. Assistant District Attorney H. Presley Smith, who represents the state, said Brennan forced her stepdaughter into a tub of scalding water, which burned 75-80 percent of the child’s body and later resulted in her death on July 15, 2007.
Smith said that after Brennan burned Sarah Harris, she peeled the girl’s skin off and put it in a plastic bag. The ADA also told the jury of eight women and five men that after Brennan realized what she had done, instead of taking the child to an emergency room, she took Harris to Brennan’s friend, Jennifer Madron, on Fort Stewart. The woman only took the child to an emergency room when Madron threatened to call military police.
Smith tried to portray the woman as a cold-blooded killer who was more concerned with her husband coming home for R&R from Iraq than she was about her stepdaughter’s condition.
After Smith finished, Word began his statement. He said Harris’ death was indeed a tragedy, but not a murder. He said it was an accident.
The defense attorney said the child died from burns sustained in the tub, but the injuries were a result of a malfunctioning hot-water heater. Word said that during the trial, he would show the heater had not been working properly, and Brennan’s landlord had received numerous complaints about the appliance.
He also said Brennan had been a caring stepmother who simply panicked when the incident happened and sought advice from her best friend on what to do. Word also said Brennan could not have held her stepdaughter in the tub, or she would have burned her own hands. Brennan was checked for burns and  none were found.
Yesterday, the prosecution called several witnesses, including a nurse and a doctor who treated the child at the emergency room, the chief detective in the case, a crisis worker and Madron.
Madron said she and Brennan were best friends and when Brennan called and said Harris had been burned, Madron thought she was talking about a sunburn. Madron, who cried through much of her testimony, said Brennan showed her the plastic bag with the child’s burned skin in it and said, “Look what she (Sarah Harris) did.”
Madron also said Brennan told her, “Sarah’s going to ruin our R&R for us.”
The defense asked Madron to verify that Brennan had asked her friend how to treat the child’s burns and that she did follow the advice diligently to help her stepdaughter as much as she could.
The defense cross-examined Stacy McBride, a DFCS case worker and the wife of the company commander of Brennan’s husband at the time of the incident.
McBride told the jury that as the company commander’s wife, she was partially responsible for providing support to spouses in her husband’s company when they had problems. However, Word challenged her on the declaration since she also was a Liberty County DFCS supervisor at the time.
The trial resumes today with key witnesses for the defense expected to testify.
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