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Woman faces charges after child is burned

Mother accused of cruelty

POSTED: August 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Patricia Darlene Turpin

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A woman accused of leaving her 2-year-old daughter alone to play with a lighter that sparked a fire causing severe, permanent injuries to the girl faces a September court date.

Patricia Darlene Turpin, 38, is due to be arraigned in Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin’s court Sept. 18 on felony charges of second-degree cruelty to a child, reckless conduct, possession of cocaine and possession of methamphetamine.

According to a grand jury indictment returned last month, Turpin is accused of leaving her daughter, Gracie Turpin, unsupervised on the morning of April 14 in their Jesse Jewell Parkway apartment, where the girl had access to a cigarette lighter. The girl ignited the lighter, causing a fire that led to third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body, according to court documents. Doctors later were forced to amputate a limb.

Gracie Turpin remains hospitalized at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati in serious condition, Gainesville Fire Chief Jon Canada said.

"She’s improving, but she’ll never be the same," Canada said.

Patricia Turpin also is charged with endangering the safety of another child in the home, Tyler Turpin, and the children’s grandfather, Willie Miller, by leaving the young girl alone with a lighter.

Authorities said Patricia Turpin was in the apartment when the fire started. Cocaine and methamphetamine were found in the home, located in the Athens Street Apartments complex across from Northeast Georgia Medical Center, according to the indictment.

Neighbors and police helped the occupants to safety before firefighters arrived. Miller was also burned in the fire and spent several weeks in Grady Memorial Hospital’s burn unit.

Gainesville Fire Marshal Jerome Yarbrough said the fire was confined to a large upholstered chair, which ignited while Gracie Turpin, then just two days shy of her second birthday, was playing with a Zippo-type cigarette lighter.

"The little girl was playing with her mother’s lighter, which kids do, and she caught herself and the chair on fire," Yarbrough said.

The girl was burned on her head, face, chest, arms, legs, trachea and lungs, according to the indictment.

Her grandfather sustained second- and third-degree burns to his neck and back while escaping the flames, Yarbrough said.

Patricia Turpin, who lists a Davis Street home address and a Buford tattoo parlor as her place of employment, is free on $20,000 bond. A phone message left for her on Wednesday was not returned. It could not immediately be determined if she had a lawyer.

Turpin will enter a plea to the charges in superior court next month.



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