A Louisiana woman has been charged with cruelty to a juvenile after she allegedly beat, burned and otherwise abused her boyfriend's 7-year-old son.
Morning Brooks, of Kenner, Louisiana, was formally charged with the crime on Nov. 20 after her arrest on March 31, notes the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Brooks, 47, is scheduled to appear in court for her arraignment on Dec. 19. If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison.
Brooks allegedly pushed thumbtacks into the boy's skin, forced him to kneel naked in a corner with his hands up in the air, and smacked him in the head with a skillet, fracturing his skull.
She is also accused of punching him, burning his skin and striking him with other kitchen items.
Investigators believe that the abuse took place between August 2015 and October 2015. The victim was hospitalized at the end of that period, when officials were alerted to the red flags. However, detectives reportedly delayed concluding their investigation and moving forward with formal charges against his father's then-girlfriend until the boy's treatment progressed.
"We wanted to make sure we charged this based on the findings," said Kenner Police Department spokesman Lt. Brian McGregor, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Upon the boy's hospitalization, doctors found the partial skull fracture as well as fluid -- possibly blood -- pooled in his abdomen, bruises on his ribs, face and legs, scratches on his face, a burn on the inside of his lip, and an inflamed pancreas.
The victim told investigators that Brooks would "torture" him. He told doctors and his father that somebody needed to save him from the girlfriend, saying that she "wanted to kill him."
In April, McGregor said that the boy remained in his his father's custody. The father is not considered a suspect, nor has he been charged in connection to the case. It is unknown when he first learned about the alleged abuse.
It can sometimes be difficult to talk to young children about possible abuse, since the abuse can make them feel guilty and confused, and they might become afraid of authority figures, notes the Mayo Clinic. Warning signs include personality and behavior changes, such as depression, aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety, diminished confidence and self-esteem, and changed school performance. Other signs can include untreated medical problems, injuries that don't match the stories behind them, frequent school absences and hesitance to leave school or ride the bus.