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Infant Dies in Care of Mother Charged with Enabling Child Abuse

17-Dec-2012

A report by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) reveals that a baby who died of brain injury complications was on an unauthorized visit with his mother at the time of his death. Randi Meshelle Lunceford, 29, of Stigler, was not allowed to have unsupervised visits with her son, 8-month-old Landon Johnson, after the baby sustained serious injuries while in her care. However, the baby's biological father, in whose care the infant was left, allowed Landon to stay with Lunceford overnight while  he dealt with "an emergency requiring him to leave the home." Though doctors required the round-the-clock use of a monitor to check the baby's breathing and oxygen levels following serious brain trauma, Lunceford admits to turning the monitor off prior to finding her son unresponsive. He died the following morning, with the state medical examiner ruling Landon's death a homicide resulting from complications from blunt force traumatic brain injury.

The injury which led to Landon's death occurred in October 2010 at the home of Lunceford's boyfriend. Doctors determined that the boy suffered "nonaccidental head trauma" after his mother was unable to provide any satisfactory explanation for the boy's injury. Though DHS found "substantiated" evidence of abuse and requested court intervention, the Haskell County district attorney's office declined to prosecute, citing lack of evidence. Landon was released from the hospital into his mother's care in December 2010. Only three and a half weeks later, Landon suffered ankle fractures while in the care of his mother. DHS was granted emergency custody and placed Landon in the care of his biological father, prohibiting unsupervised visits with Lunceford.

Randi Lunceford has since been charged with four felony counts of causing or permitting injury or abuse to a child. Under Oklahoma child abuse statutes, a person may be charged either with abuse itself or with enabling child abuse. Whether a defendant is charged with directly abusing a child or with permitting such abuse to occur, life in prison is a potential consequence of conviction.

The Oklahoma Children's Code of the state statutes defines child abuse as "harm or threatened harm or failure to protect from harm or threatened harm to the health, welfare, or safety of a child by a person responsible for the child's health, welfare, or safety." The statute further states that child abuse includes but is not limited to "nonaccidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation." While ordinary force for discipline is allowed, including "spanking, switching, or paddling," willful or malicious abuse and the allowance of such abuse to occur are vigorously prosecuted felonies.  

Likewise, child neglect and enabling child neglect are felonies potentially punishable by life in prison. There are three basic types of neglect: failure to provide for a child, failure to protect a child, and abandonment. Neglect is defined as a failure to provide "adequate nurturance and affection, food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, hygiene, or appropriate education; medical, dental, or behavioral health care; supervision or appropriate caretakers; or special care made necessary by the physical or mental condition of the child." Neglect is further defined as a failure to protect a child from exposure to "the use, possession, sale, or manufacture of illegal drugs; illegal activities; or sexual acts or materials that are not age-appropriate."

For more information about Oklahoma child abuse and neglect laws, or to find a child abuse defense lawyer in Oklahoma, please visit us online at www.oklahomalegalgroup.com/child-abuse.



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