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Wash. mom Jennifer Mothershead accused of putting bleach into her toddler's eyes

Jennifer Mothershead, 29 CBS/KOMO

(CBS/KOMO/AP) TACOMA, Wash. - Jennifer Mothershead, a Washington State woman accused of repeatedly putting bleach into her toddler's right eye, pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault of a child on Monday.

Prosecutors said Mothershead was arrested Friday and charged with assault after a lengthy investigation.

According to police, Mothershead's daughter was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in May 2011 after sustaining a serious head injury. The girl, who was 14 months old at the time, also had an eye infection. Doctors called the Pierce County Sheriff's Department because they suspected the head injury was a result of abuse.

CBS affiliate KOMO reports when the mother was asked about the eye infection, Mothershead said her daughter's eyes had been swollen shut for about four weeks and that the issue began in March 2011 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 eyes as her husband had just recently filed for divorce. According to court documents, she wanted the father's visits severely limited because of the baby's fragile eye condition.

Mothershead didn't provide an explanation for the head injury. According to the detective, she also didn't show any emotion about her daughter's injuries.

The detectives placed the girl in state protective custody.

Mothershead had brought the eye drops to the hospital. A staff member later then opened the drops and noticed a foul odor. Investigators sent the drops to the Food and Drug Administration's Forensic Chemistry Lab for analysis. The lab determined the drops contained bleach.

"The staff at Harborview determined that the damage to the child's eyes was consistent with repeated exposure to bleach, and ruled out any possibility that the eye dropper had been merely cleaned with bleach," prosecutors said in a statement.

The girl's condition improved in the hospital but doctors noted she'd lost vision in her right eye. The girl now lives with her father.

Mothershead, 29, was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail.

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