WILKES-BARRE — A judge ruled Friday that there is enough evidence against two Butler Twp. women to send child abuse charges against them to Luzerne County Court.
Lekeshia Atchison, 23, and Chamille Atchison, 31, face felony child endangerment and other charges after a girl told school officials her foster mothers would make her take off her clothes before they beat her with extension cords, wires and sticks.
The claims were first reported to the school in February and, following an investigation, the women were arrested in May and, in addition to child endangerment, face misdemeanor charges of corruption of minors, simple assault and furnishing liquor to a minor.
At their preliminary hearing in Central Court before Magisterial District Judge Thomas Malloy on Friday, Butler Twp. investigating officer George Keifer testified about how the alleged abuse was brought to the attention of authorities and subsequent interviews conducted with the alleged victim.
The most recent incidents allegedly occurred in the gated community of Beech Mountain Lakes, where the family has reportedly lived since February 2016. The child alleged the assaults had been ongoing for about five years, beginning prior to her family moved to the area, Keifer said.
Assistant District Attorney Brittany Quinn produced photos that showed bruising on the girl’s legs and lower back and scars on her legs, as well as documentation of the girl’s interview.
Attorney Jonathan Blum, representing Lekeshia, objected to some of Keifer’s testimony, calling it “double hearsay” and saying such testimony should only be allowed from the child or the Child Advocacy Center staffer who conducted the interview with the child.
Blum and Matthew Clemente, Chamille’s attorney, entered into evidence records of the girl’s visits to various hospitals and health care facilities to rebut allegations that her mothers were not addressing the child’s medical needs and health care.
Malloy ruled the charges can move forward. He set a dispositional hearing for 9 a.m. Oct. 4 before county Judge Michael T. Vough.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, when asked for comment on the proceedings, Lekeisha Atchison said, “A lot of lies were exposed. He knew he was lying,” she said of Keifer.
The alleged lies, she said, were related to discipline and a walking stick Keifer testified was found outside the home during a search. Atchison said she and her wife showed Keifer a book when he executed a search of their home, but before she could explain further, Clemente exited the courtroom and advised her to end the interview.
Both defense attorneys declined comment after the hearing.
Quinn said she and Keifer were “content with the outcome today and we’re ready to move ahead.”
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