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Ludowici woman denied bond
Erica J. Brennan, who has been charged in the death of her 8-year-old stepdaughter, Sarah Harris, was denied bond Monday. - photo by Photo by Lewis Levine
Despite an argument from Erica Brennan’s defense attorney, John Pirkle, that burns resulting in the death of her 8-year-old stepdaughter may have been the result of a possible seizure while bathing, the woman was denied bond Monday by Superior Court Judge Robert Russell.
Sitting in a Hinesville courtroom, the judge heard testimony from Long County chief investigator Det. Ty Smith before rendering his decision.
Brennan, who was arrested Thursday and charged in the scalding death of Sarah Harris, had said, according to Smith, the child had talked to her biological mother on the phone July 6 and then began to “act up.”  
Smith said Brennan, a Ludowici resident, told him she put the child in the tub for a bath and the water was warm. She then went to do something on her computer and, when she returned, found Harris lying in a tub of scalding water.
Smith stated Brennan told him she took the child out of the tub, and called a friend to tell her what had happened. Afterward, she went to meet the friend on Fort Stewart, and was told she needed to take the child to a hospital or the police would have to be called.
Brennan then took the young girl to Winn Army Hospital where she was treated by Dr. Juan Vincents and then airlifted to the Augusta Burn Center.  
“In all my years of law enforcement, you can’t convince me this child laid in a tub of hot water,” Smith told the judge.
Smith said Vincents told him he doubted Harris had been burned in the manner the stepmother had claimed.
Harris, who suffered burns to over 80 percent of her body, died July 15 in Augusta. According to Smith, she never regained consciousness.
Smith also said he had spoken with Brennan’s 7-year-old son, and the child had told him his mother had wanted to hide bruises on Harris, “because daddy was coming home.”
Smith also told the judge the boy said when Brennan put his stepsister in for a bath, she screamed and managed to get out of the tub but his mother forced her back into the water.
Russell Brennan, who stood by his wife’s side in court, is a Fort Stewart soldier. He was serving in Iraq and was returning home for a two-week leave on the day his daughter was fatally injured.
According to Smith, Brennan had only learned he was the father of young girl last year, and had been awarded temporary custody in May 2006, while awaiting full custody.
Brennan’s defense attorney argued on her behalf, hoping for a bond to be set. But Assistant District Attorney Mark Hendricks countered by noting the seriousness of the crime.
In regards to the case, Brennan has also been charged with cruelty to a child in the first degree.
Russell denied bond and took the case under advisement until another hearing sometime later this month.
Smith was asked about the case after the hearing and said, “In all my time as a law officer, this is the worse child abuse case I have ever worked.”
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