Police arrested an East Hampton, Connecticut, woman accused of injuring her 5-year-old stepdaughter and then forcing the girl to stage videos showing her hurting herself.
Felicia Marie O'Brien, 24, appeared in Middletown Superior Court Thursday to face charges of cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor.
O'Brien's stepdaughter was first taken to the hospital with injuries in August and doctors suspected the girl might have been abused. According to court documents, O'Brien told police and a social worker from the Department of Children and Families that her stepdaughter heard voices in her head telling her to hurt herself by hitting her head on a bunk bed ladder.
When police interviewed the girl, she backed up the story and said she banged her own head on the ladder, according to the court documents. Though doctors said the injuries were not consistent with the girl harming herself, police decided not to file charges based on the 5-year-old's account of what happened.
On September 22, O'Brien brought the girl to the Marlborough Emergency Room Walk-in Clinic with severe injuries to her face and eyes. She was moved to Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford due to the severity of the injuries.
O'Brien showed doctors videos she took with her iPhone, showing the girl hitting her head on the ladder. A doctor at the hospital told police the video looked "staged" and that the injuries did not appear to have been caused by the action in the video, according to court documents.
Police interviewed O'Brien and viewed the videos. They took O'Brien's cell phone as evidence and found additional videos on it. Police said the videos appeared to be "practice" videos and that O'Brien could be heard in the videos ordering her stepdaughter to hit her head on the ladder, according to court documents. They said it appeared the girl already had bruising on her face and arm before beginning to bang her head.
Outside court on Thursday, O'Brien's father said his step-granddaughter has mental health issues and that his daughter is innocent.
"My daughter for a year has been screaming for help from DCF from everybody and nobody would listen and it came to this," Leo Cote said. "I'll be the first to admit it she has made many mistakes but she did not do this, that I know."
O'Brien remained behind bars on $250,000 bond.