LANCASTER – A 27-year-old Palmdale woman accused of brutally beating her boyfriend’s two-year-old son in public has been ordered to trial on two felony charges.
Michelle Fletcher was ordered to stand trial for corporal injury on a child, as well as a newly filed charge of child cruelty causing possible injury or death, after a preliminary hearing in an Antelope Valley courtroom Friday.
A pregnant Fletcher sat quietly, holding a sonogram image and occasionally shaking her head, as a Spanish-speaking eyewitness testified about what happened on the afternoon of Feb. 21.
Fletcher was walking near 10th Street East and Avenue Q-4, pushing a baby carriage while scolding and striking a crying toddler walking beside her, the eyewitness testified.
Fletcher lifted the toddler’s hand and kneed him in the buttocks at least twice, according to the witness. At one point, Fletcher wrapped a belt around the child’s neck and “lifted him up,” the witness testified.
“When she raised him up, I reacted,” the witness said, through a Spanish interpreter. The witness said her daughter made the 9-1-1 call and translated the details for deputies.
Palmdale Sheriff’s deputy Mario Villalobos testified that when he responded to the area, the two-year-old boy was “extremely lethargic” and appeared to be “falling asleep on his feet.”
He said the little boy was also missing a chunk of hair.
“I saw that he was missing two braids off his head,” Villalobos testified.
The deputy said he found the two missing braids, along with a belt, in Fletcher’s diaper bag. When questioned, Fletcher said the little boy ripped his own hair out during a tantrum, Villalobos testified.
The boy was airlifted to Children’s Hospital that afternoon, where he remained for nearly two weeks until his release on March 6, according to testimony by Detective Laura Bruner of the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victim’s Bureau.
Bruner testified that she spoke to the nurse in charge, who said the toddler was extremely dehydrated and had numerous superficial wounds and bruises, lots of scabbing, and strangulation marks on his neck.
Bruner also testified that she spoke to a social worker, who said the boy had only recently been released from the foster care system, where he was placed after his biological mother’s arrest.
The boy was returned to his biological mother on Feb. 7, and he was allowed a custody visit with his biological father and Fletcher on Feb. 14, a week prior to the alleged incident, Bruner testified.
Fletcher’s defense attorney James McNamara argued that the boy suffered no broken bones or severe injuries likely to cause death, and that there was no time reference on any of the child’s superficial injuries.
“None of those injuries seem to have taken place on the day in question,” McNamara said. His motion to reduce the charges to misdemeanors was denied, and Fletcher was held to answer on both felony counts.
She was ordered back to custody on $100,000 bail with a second arraignment set for March 21.
Previous related story: Palmdale woman arrested for beating 2-year-old