Child Abuse, Neglect Conviction Upheld

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The Arizona Court of Appeals has decided not to overturn a jury’s guilty verdict against a Payson woman who burned her children with cigarettes.

Payson police arrested Sarah Michelle Ryan on child abuse and neglect charges after a teacher noticed blisters on Ryan’s then 6-year-old daughter. The girl told her teacher and later a forensic interviewer that Ryan had burned her and used her like an ashtray, according to court documents. The child testified to this at trial and a doctor backed up her claims, saying he had treated her for second-degree burns.

When police later searched Ryan’s home, they found it in disarray, clothes and debris six inches high in Ryan’s bedroom and a strong odor of urine in her children’s bedroom. The jury heard that Ryan’s daughter was left in her bed after urinating in it and not always bathed or kept clean, according to court documents.

On Nov. 2, a jury found Ryan guilty of abusing and neglecting her children, but acquitted her on one count of influencing a witness.

The Gila County Superior Court denied Ryan’s subsequent motion for a new trial and the Honorable Judge Peter Cahill sentenced her to 2.5 years in prison and three years of probation.

In her appeal, Ryan contended that Gila County Superior Court should have granted her a new trial and granted her motion for judgment of acquittal. The appeals court ruled, however, that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude Ryan abused her children and “we accordingly find no error in the court’s denial of her motion for judgment of acquittal,” wrote Judge Michael Miller.

The appeals court also rejected Ryan’s claim that the Gila County Superior Court should have granted her a new trial because Ryan and her lawyer failed to timely file for a new trial.

“For these reasons, Ryan’s convictions, sentence and term of probation are affirmed,” Miller wrote.

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