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Ludowici woman denied bond again
Woman accused of scalding child to death
MR Erica Jenea Brennan 003
Erica Brennan - photo by Long County Sheriff's Department photo
For the second time in less than nine days, Superior Court Judge Robert Russell heard testimony in the Erica Brennan murder case.  
Brennan, who is charged in the death of her stepdaughter, Sarah Harris, 8, was denied bond by Russell on Aug. 6.
The child died July 15, and Brennan was arrested and charged with the crime Aug. 2.
A preliminary hearing was held Monday at the Long County courthouse. Long County Sheriff’s Department Chief Det. Ty Smith was questioned by Brennan’s attorney, John Pirkle, and by Atlantic Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Melissa Poole.
As Poole questioned Smith, he described how on July 6 he was contacted by Fort Stewart Criminal Investigation Division Agent Jeremy Batchelor about Harris having second and third-degree burns over a large portion of her body.
Smith then told the court, that when he arrived at the hospital, attending physician Dr. Juan Vincents told him, “The burns were not consistent with the story which Mrs. Brennan had said.”
When Poole asked Smith what the mother had told the doctor, Smith said, “He said that she had told him that she had just got in a tub of hot water.”
Smith also said the nurse who had helped treat the child had a zip-lock bag with skin that had come off of Harris because of  the burns.  
According to Smith, the nurse had said Brennan had brought the bag to the hospital.
Smith told the court, he had interviewed Brennan in the parking lot of the hospital, and also at her home in Ludowici.  
Smith told the court Brennan told him the child had a history of hurting herself with bites and pinching herself, and that when she had made the bath for the child it had warm water in the tub.
Smith also told the court  Brennan had contacted her friend, Jennifer Madron, who lives on Fort Stewart, after the child had been injured, and asked her how to treat burns.  
Smith said Madron had told him she had thought the child had a sunburn, so she told Brennan she could put evaporated milk on the burn to ease the pain.
Smith said Brennan then went to Fort Stewart and met her friend. He said she told him the child was conscious in the car and, “Mrs. Madron told me that the child was sitting up like this, with her feet not touching the floor, whimpering.”
According to Smith, Madron also said, she told Brennan she needed to take the child to the hospital or she would have to call the military police.
Poole’s final questioning had Smith informing the court Madron had told him Brennan had said to her, “Sarah’s not the angel child that everyone thinks. She really is a demon child, and I’m through with her.”
Pirkle’s questioning of Smith followed, and met several objections from Poole, with Russell over-ruling each of them.
One of the key elements  Pirkle challenged was the assumption Brennan wasn’t a caring mother, and didn’t treat the child on the night of the incident.
He questioned Smith regarding reports from Darsey Black and Associates LLC, stating in  their reports, the child had looked upon Brennan as her mother and had developed a bond with her.
He also questioned Smith about his knowledge of the reports indicating the child had “significant emotional problems with her biological mother.”
Pirkle also asked Smith about the water heater at the Brennan home, and had he looked at it, as to the temperature setting and as to whether it worked properly.
Smith said that on the night of the incident, he and Deputy Shane Middleton had gone to the residence and Middleton found the temperature setting to be at 130 degrees.
Pirkle then asked Smith what the setting was when the home was searched with a search warrant, and Smith said at that time the temperature was set on 110 degrees. Pirkle then asked Smith could he explain this, and Smith said he could not.
Pirkle also questioned the burns on the child and suggested they appeared to be from the child first stepping into the tub, and then sitting down, and not from laying down on her back.
Pirkle also asked the detective if he had seen the autopsy report.  
Smith said he had not, because it had not been completed. At that point, Pirkle asked if there was no report back, on what was he basing his arrest of Brennan?
Smith said he had talked to the medical examiner from the crime lab in Savannah, and he had ruled the death a homicide, resulting from thermal burns.  
Smith also said the medical examiner had said the child had stayed in the water was because of either “being held or intimidation.
Pirkle asked if the report was  complete, and Smith said it was a preliminary report, and he was waiting on the complete report with the autopsy.
When Pirkle finished his questioning of Smith, neither he nor Poole called any more witnesses. But Pirkle once again requested a bond to be set for Brennan.
Russell, once again, denied bond and he bound the case over to the Long County Grand Jury to decide if the case will go to trial.
Poole informed the court the death penalty would be sought.
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