Woman charged after child suffers burns from tub of hot water

by: Ken Lemon Updated:

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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. —

A woman was charged with child abuse after a child was burned in a tub of scalding water, according to Gaston County police.
 
Cassandra Willard was watching the child on June 8. The 15-month-old girl was left unattended long enough to get inside a bathtub and remained inside a tub with hot water running from the tap for up to 30 minutes.
 
Police said Willard is not related to the child and was baby-sitting several other small children at the time, who were not injured.
 
Prosecutor said it took so long because investigators had to interview children about this case which means taking time to set up social workers so that there is an impartial adult present when the parents can't be there.
 
Willard told the judge she never wanted 16-month-old Isabelle Niggell to get hurt.
 
"I promise you I wish it was me, not that poor little baby,” she said in court Friday.
       
The baby's older cousin Hope Lendyak had trouble finding the words to express her disappointment.
 
“It's just dramatic.  It hurts,” she said.
     
Willard and her boyfriend lived in a Dallas home with Isabelle's mother and father.
 
Three weeks ago Willard was babysitting the five children who live there.
       
Police said Isabelle climbed into the bathtub and turned on the hot water.
      
The other children, all under 6 years old, didn't respond to the cries and Willard didn't hear her.
 
"She had on headphones listening to something on the computer and was not paying close attention,” said Sgt. Myron Sheler with Gaston County Police Department.
      
Police said Isabelle was in the hot water crying for up to 30 minutes when her father and Willard's boyfriend got home.
 
"They heard the baby screaming,” Lendyak said.
   
Isabelle's father lifted her out of the tub.
 
"Her daddy had her in his hands screaming for help,” Lendyak said.
    
Willard called 911 in tears.
 
Police said Willard should have known this could happen. Isabelle had climbed into the tub before.
 
"The child's father is like a brother to me.  He knows I would never intentionally hurt his child," Willard said.
 
Isabelle is at Baptist Burn Center in Winston Salem with severe burns from her waist down.
    
Her mother said she will likely be there for more than a month. She said she still cannot hold her baby and cannot understand how a woman she considered a trusted friend could let this happen.