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Mother found guilty of beating toddler

Yearwood faces up to 20 years in prison; child has recovered

POSTED: January 29, 2008 5:03 a.m.

A Gainesville mother was found guilty Friday of beating her 2-year-old daughter to the point of leaving numerous bruises and lacerations, but a jury acquitted her of causing a life-threatening skull fracture.

Janet Marie Yearwood, 24, faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years after being convicted Friday in Hall County Superior Court of aggravated battery, cruelty to children in the first degree, reckless conduct and family violence battery.

Judge Andrew Fuller deferred sentencing to a later date. He ordered Yearwood to be jailed immediately, but granted a request that she be allowed to remain free for 24 hours in order to attend her grandfather's funeral today. She must report to the Hall County jail by 6 p.m.

Yearwood wept quietly after the verdict was read. Her mother, who has permanent custody of the girl, now 4, looked on stoically from the gallery.

The girl, who at one point was in critical condition at an Atlanta children's hospital with a serious head injury, has recovered fully and is not expected to have any lasting effects.

The jury of seven women and five men spent about 4« hours deliberating the case Friday before reaching its verdict.

Yearwood was acquitted of one count of aggravated battery which alleged she "did cause bodily harm ... by rendering useless and seriously disfiguring a member of (the victim's) body, to-wit: her skull, beating said child causing a skull fracture."

The second count of aggravated battery of which Yearwood was convicted alleged she beat her daughter, "leaving numerous bruises and marks on multiple parts of her body."

On a charge of second-degree cruelty to children that alleged Yearwood withheld medical treatment for her injuries by putting her to bed that night, the jury found her guilty instead of a lesser offense of reckless conduct. Jurors declined to discuss their verdict when approached outside of court after the trial.

Prosecutor Wanda Vance alleged at trial that in June 2006 at the Hidden Cove apartments, Yearwood flew into a rage after the child acted out, whipping her at least 15 times on the legs with a switch or some other object and knocking her head against a coffee table. Yearwood's attorneys tried to shift the blame to Yearwood's live-in boyfriend, who was not charged in the case.

Public defender Craig Hickein argued that the state had not proved how the child sustained the injury, only offering theories.

Vance told the jury in her closing argument Thursday that she believes Yearwood "loves her daughter, and she always will."

"And hopefully at some point in all of this, she'll come to terms with what she did," Vance said.



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