Accused alleged to have exposed young child to acid
by Heather Tomlinson Commonwealth Journal
Three of the four people accused of exposing a young child to meth-making ingredients were indicted on related charges this week.
A Pulaski County grand jury on Wednesday charged Krystal E. Hampton, 26, Brittany N. Helton, 24, and Brian K. Herrin, 36, with one count each of manufacturing methamphetamine and one count each of second-degree controlled substance endangerment to a child.
Herrin was also charged with two counts of being a persistent felony offender.
The three defendants and a fourth person, Curtis W. Anderson, 23, were arrested in late August after a 20-month-old boy was treated at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and later the University of Kentucky for burns to the mouth, face and chest.
Anderson, the child’s father, took the young boy to the hospital after the alleged incident occurred.
Initial fears were that the child had ingested “Liquid Fire” drain cleaner, potentially leading to death, according to investigators, but during treatment, doctors discovered that the acid had barely entered the mouth, burning the child’s lips, then spilled onto his chest and splashed onto his legs.
The child allegedly tried to drink the cleaner, thinking it was something else, while at Herrin’s residence on Aug. 20. Investigators stated that Helton, the boy’s mother, took the child to Herrin’s residence. All four people live on South U.S. 27, Loop 4, in Burnside.
Immediately following the incident, Herrin and Hampton allegedly fled the scene. A search warrant executed at the Herrin residence turned up several items used to manufacture methamphetamine, including muri-atic acid, batteries, tubing, salt, and acetone, according to the sheriff’s department.
The four defendants’ cases had been progressing as part of the Rocket Docket program, during which defendants waive their rights to a grand jury hearing in order to reach a quick plea deal. But offers from Commonwealth Attorney Eddy F. Montgomery’s office were quickly withdrawn in September after Helton appeared to do an about-face during a hearing in front of Pulaski Circuit Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette.
Helton’s public defender, Andrea Simpson, had informed Burdette that her client wished to enter an Alford plea of guilty to one count of third-degree controlled substance endangerment to a child and one count of facilitation to manufacture methamphetamine.
An Alford plea is entered when a defendant maintains innocence but acknowledges enough evidence exists against them to bring about a conviction in court.
Burdette, however, declined to accept the Alford plea and promoted Helton to enter either a guilty or not guilty plea. Helton then pleaded not guilty to her original charge of second-degree controlled substance endangerment to a child.
Helton’s decision to pull her guilty plea had immediate consequences for her co-defendants — Anderson, Herrin, and Hampton.
Anderson had already entered a guilty plea to one count of second-degree wanton endangerment, a misdemeanor, in August in connection with the incident. Herrin and Hampton’s cases had been up for review alongside Helton’s case.
Anderson was not included in the grand jury’s charges.
Helton and Herrin are being held in the Pulaski County Detention Center on $50,000 bonds. Hampton was lodged on a $5,000 bond.
An indictment is an accusation only, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.