‘I’m completely heartbroken’: Mother questions police handling of 18-month-old’s abuse case

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 12:12 PM EDT
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STANLEY, N.C. (WBTV) – Nyasia Brooks thought something might be wrong after she noticed scratches on the neck of her son, Colton, one day after she picked him up from daycare.

The 18-month-old went to an in-home daycare run by Brenna McAlister.

When Brooks got home, she took off her son’s shirt and noticed bruises on his back and chest, in addition to the scratches on his neck.

Then she took off his pants and saw more bruises on his legs and what appeared to be the imprint of a paddle.

“Then my mother-in-law took off his diaper and that’s when she hid it from me. She told me she didn’t want me to see, and that’s when I knew it was bad.”

Eventually, though, Brooks did look. Her mother-in-law pulled down the back of the boy’s diaper, revealing bruising and red marks all over his butt.

“I was completely heartbroken,” she said. “There was no reason for her to do what she had done.”

Brooks called police, who investigated, including taking pictures of the boy’s bruises over a week-long period.

McAlister was charged with one misdemeanor count of child abuse.

Under state law, child abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, the difference being the extent of a child’s injuries. The extent of an injury can be physical or can include whether an injury “causes great pain and suffering.”

Brooks questions why the babysitter wasn’t charged with more or more severe crimes.

“She has traumatized my son, not only physically but mentally and emotionally,” she said.

“He wakes up with night terrors every night. He is constantly waking up during that time, crying, and I console him, put him right back to sleep. He is just that scared.”

Reached by phone, McAlister said she did not want to discuss the charges, saying she was “going to leave it alone.”

The case was investigated by the Gaston County Police Department.

Department spokesman Cpt. Billy Downey said detectives investigated the case as instructed by the district attorney’s office—including taking pictures of the boy’s bruises over multiple days to see if they got worse—and presented the evidence to prosecutors.

“The assistant district attorney that was prosecuting the case said, unfortunately, she won’t—she wishes she could charge with a felony but, unfortunately, it doesn’t meet the elements of the crime.”

The police spokesman said detectives charged McAlister based on guidance from the district attorney’s office.

“It’s one of those decisions where we didn’t make the decision, it was made at the DA level, then we charged what we were instructed to charge,” Downey said.

Gaston County District Attorney Travis Page declined to discuss specifics of this case, citing his office’s ongoing prosecution.

But, speaking generally, Page said his office works with law enforcement to make charging decisions.

“We are very diligent and work together with law enforcement in determining what types of charges that we bring or authorize,” Page said.

“There’s none that we take more serious than allegations that involve criminal acts committed towards children and we will aggressively pursue the charges that have been brought forth already.”

But Brooks fears the single, misdemeanor charge may not bring sufficient punishment to deter McAlister in the future.

“We will get justice because he’s one-years-old, one-years-old and was beaten with a paddle for no reason,” Brooks said.

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