RUSTBURG — A woman involved in the “potential homicide” of a 3-year-old last month in Gladys admitted to lying to law enforcement when she initially told them he fell from a chair and hit his head, prosecutors said.
Megan Marie Paris, 30, has been charged with aggravated malicious wounding and child abuse or neglect of Ian Berger, whose father she was in a relationship with.
She’s been in jail since her arrest on the aggravated malicious wounding charge last week and made an appeal in Campbell Circuit Court to be released from jail on bond Wednesday, appearing in a video call from the Amherst County Adult Detention Center.
The child was airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on Sept. 17 with severe head injuries after being in Paris’ care, according to a summary of evidence made by Campbell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul McAndrews in court. When Paris called Berger’s father that afternoon to tell him about the injuries and he asked where the ambulance was, she responded, “Haven’t called one,” according to McAndrews.
When he arrived at the hospital, the child was in “horrific shape,” McAndrews said, bearing a head injury medical examiners said was on par with a car crash. He received surgery to relieve pressure on his skull but was taken out of a medical coma and died the next morning.
Attorneys said Wednesday the autopsy isn’t complete and likely won’t be for another month.
Paris told law enforcement she was watching over the child that day and gave a detailed account of what he did that morning, according to McAndrews. She told investigators he fell out of a booster seat after appearing “spaced out” at lunch, and then he hit his head on a door frame at least twice when she tried to bathe and change him.
At first, McAndrews said, she was “adamant” on that version of events, but when confronted by investigators with the fact the child couldn’t have received his injuries that way, she admitted she lied.
Then, McAndrews said, Paris told investigators she found the child unresponsive on the landing of basement stairs, having left the door to the stairway open after going to let the basement tenant’s dog out. McAndrews added the tenant said Paris had never let the dog out in the past.
In that second version of events, Paris said she then bathed him but didn’t call 911.
The child’s father said he found a cracked soap dish and a soiled pair of the child’s pants in the trash can, according to McAndrews.
“Where this is going is a significant situation,” he said at one point during the appeal hearing. McAndrews later called the incident a “potential homicide” and said it seems likely the child experienced intentional trauma, but experts haven’t ruled out every potential accidental scenario.
Medical analysis of the body showed there must’ve been “some kind of force” behind the head injury and there was a second head injury of unknown date and origin, McAndrews said.
In the six months Paris has lived with the child’s father, McAndrews said she’s come under investigation by Child Protective Services after the child bore handprints, bruises, and suffered a broken shoulder in May.
When asked who was causing the injuries, the child replied, “Megan,” according to McAndrews. Still, he said investigation into the injuries of such a young child previously had been a “hard case to determine.” McAndrews also mentioned a concern that Paris was potentially abusing prescription painkillers, which her attorney, David Robinson, disputed.
Robinson said his client is an Army veteran who served from 2010 to 2014, has PTSD from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan and has no criminal history. He asked Judge John Cook to reinstate Paris’ $5,000 bond a magistrate granted on her initial charge.
Cook denied Paris’ request for bond due to her inconsistent statements, “strong evidence” against her and a presumption against bond for the aggravated malicious wounding charge that she hadn’t overcome.
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