Note: This story was updated at 11:05 a.m. April 17.
Oak Ridge Today/WYSH Radio
An Oak Ridge woman will spend the next 15 to 25 years in a state penitentiary after an Anderson County jury needed less than 20 minutes Tuesday to convict her of aggravated child neglect following a trial in Anderson County Criminal Court.
Melissa Lopez, 37, was charged with failing or refusing to seek emergency medical care for her then-10-month-old son, who had suffered what the Anderson County District Attorney’s Office described as “horrible,” second-degree chemical or thermal burns to his skin and injuries to his eyes in November 2008.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services began an investigation after someone called and told them about the infant’s injuries, and DCS workers compelled Lopez to take the boy to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for treatment of his skin burns, eyes, and management of his pain.
DCS also brought in the Oak Ridge Police Department to investigate, and their probe determined that the boy had received the burns on November 19, 2008, but did not receive medical treatment until seven days later, following the DCS visit.
The cause of the burns is unknown. Lopez was stripped of her custodial rights to the child, who has since been adopted by what the DA’s office described in a press release as a “loving home.”
Following her conviction, Lopez was taken into custody and transported to the Anderson County jail, where she will remain until her sentencing hearing on July 13.
“These are the worst cases to deal with, but the most rewarding to deliver justice to,” District Attorney General Dave Clark said in the press release.
The trial was conducted for the state by Assistant District Attorney General Anthony Craighead. ORPD Sergeant Jock Coleman was the investigating officer. Mary Palmer of the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital testified concerning the child’s injuries and medical care. And Investigator Sara Powell testified on behalf of Tennessee DCS, Clark said in the press release.
The trial was conducted in Anderson County Circuit and Criminal Court, with Judge Don Elledge presiding.
“I am grateful to General Craighead, the officers, investigators, health care professionals, the jurors, and the court for caring about this child and this case,” Clark said.
Matthew Armstrong, who was the boyfriend of Lopez, is also facing charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect in connection to the baby’s injuries, and he is free on bond pending a trial set to begin in September.