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Amber Thomas never would have thought her stepsister, Crystal Barnett, would be accused of such a heinous crime.
By all accounts, Ms. Barnett has been a good mother to her own 2-year-old son and an excellent caregiver for Ms. Thomas' 8-month-old daughter, whom she is accused of throwing into a nightstand.
"She absolutely loved kids. She absolutely adored them. She was so good with babies and kids," Ms. Thomas said. "I am still having a hard time gripping that she had done this to her."
Ms. Barnett, 20, of 5406 Harvest Lane, pleaded not guilty yesterday to felony child endangering at her arraignment in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Judge Frederick McDonald set a trial for June 3.
Olivia Thomas, whom Ms. Barnett was baby-sitting, was found unconscious about 10 p.m. April 13 in the defendant's apartment and taken to Toledo Hospital, where she is being treated for a fractured skull and other brain injuries.
According to police, Ms. Barnett initially said Olivia was hurt when her son threw the baby against the nightstand. She later told investigators the baby fell off a bed and struck the furniture.
"We were told she confessed to throwing her into a nightstand," the victim's mother said.
Ms. Thomas, 25, said her daughter wasn't expected to live through the night, but unexpectedly pulled through emergency surgery to become what nurses are now calling the "miracle baby."
"Everyone is absolutely amazed at how well she is doing," she said. "She is doing great."
Ms. Thomas said her stepsister, who is being held in the county jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond, often took care of Olivia and her 4-year-old sister while she was at work, and also was the baby-sitter for other children, including a neighbor's grandchild.
"I have met some of the kids. They seemed to love her as much as my daughter did. My oldest daughter absolutely adored Crystal," Ms. Thomas said.
Julie Malkin, a spokesman for Lucas County Children Services, said a relative has been given temporary custody of Ms. Barnett's son.