June 1, 2012

Watauga woman caught on video abusing triplets gets 4 years in prison

A video camera installed by the parents showed the sitter slinging the babies around.

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A baby sitter caught on a secret video camera abusing infant triplets was sentenced Friday to four years in prison, followed by 10 years' probation that will include mental-health treatment.

But because the sitter has served more than 13 months in jail awaiting trial, she will enter the state prison system eligible for parole.

The camera, installed by the parents in March 2011 because they didn't think that Carolyn Marie Easton, 66, was giving the children enough "tummy time," instead revealed the woman slinging the babies around by one arm, slapping them in the face, flinging them onto the sofa and jamming bottles into their mouths.

State District Judge Scott Wisch, who described himself as a "baby magnet" because of his ability to soothe crying children, said the video is "bizarre" and "offensive."

"It's like something from The Twilight Zone," Wisch said during sentencing. "It's like you were carrying around sacks of potatoes instead of babies."

The parents, who asked not to be identified to protect the children's identity, said they wanted the woman they knew as "Carrie" to spend more time in prison.

The children, who were born prematurely and were about 51/2 months old at the time, suffered no permanent injuries.

"At least we get to go home and give our babies kisses and know that God and his angels were watching out for them," the mother told the Star-Telegram after the sentencing.

'Nanny cam'

Easton, of Watauga, had pleaded guilty to three counts of causing bodily injury to a child. Defense attorney Edwin Youngblood had urged the court to consider probation, saying Easton may suffer from mental illness or early onset Alzheimer's disease.

Prosecutor Eric Nickols, part of the crimes against children unit, had asked the judge for the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

"She betrayed this family by abusing their kids," Nickols said. "It's an easy answer to say she must be mentally ill. But she only does this when she thinks no one's watching."

The mother testified that she and her husband had noticed flat spots on the children's heads and had decided that they were not spending enough time on their stomachs, as they'd requested. So they decided to hide a "nanny cam" in a smoke detector.

The first day the camera operated, it captured the abuse. The mother testified that Easton seemed particularly abusive to the smallest triplet, who was weaker than the others.

"For some reason, she was picked on, and she was so tiny," the mother told the judge tearfully. She showed the judge a tiny pink outfit that the child had worn.

The mother said that Easton was a neighbor of one of the triplets' grandmothers and that they did everything possible to screen her. They checked references, did a background check and spent several weeks with her in the house before leaving her alone with the children.

Blaming others

The parents said they would urge others to install a nanny cam even if they have no reason to suspect problems.

"Maybe we can help somebody else," the mother said.

Fort Worth police investigator Dani Paine testified that Easton tried to blame the maternal grandmother for mishandling the children before learning that a video had captured her actions.

Wisch told Easton that her efforts to blame others rather than accept responsibility persuaded him to give her prison time.

"That's the part that is morally reprehensible. That's what deserves a penitentiary sentence," Wisch told Easton.

Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084

Twitter: @DiannaHunt

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