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Published: Tuesday, 7/8/2008

Woman gets 3 years in prison for injuring son


Alshunza Hawkins was admittedly overwhelmed as a young mother of five with a sixth child on the way, but her 3-year-old son's safety was her responsibility, a judge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court said yesterday.

Hawkins, 24, was sentenced to three years in prison for causing severe injuries to her young son that partially paralyzed him. She pleaded no contest June 3 to one count of child endangering. A second count was dismissed yesterday.

"I understand this child may have had behavioral problems and may have been a handful, but you are his parent. You are responsible for his life," Judge Denise Ann Dartt said. "You had a dependent, vulnerable, helpless child in your control who is now seriously and permanently injured."

Hawkins, of 306 Belmont Ave., was convicted of child endangering for an incident Feb. 22 when she was disciplining her son by holding his arms up and pulling his legs over his head, authorities said. The young boy tried to escape and fell when his mother tried to grab him, causing him to hit his head.

Authorities also said Hawkins had hit the boy with a belt, creating large marks on his body.

Hawkins' six children, who are all under 7, are in relatives' care.

Before her sentencing, Hawkins apologized for her actions, saying she did not intend to hurt her son. She said she hopes to return to her family and once again care for her children.

"I'm responsible, and I'm sorry that it happened," she said of the boy's head injury. "I know I can't take it back, but I wish it didn't happen."

Attorney William Meyer explained to the judge that Hawkins was trying to restrain her son on her lap because he was "extremely active" - a restraint that has since been referred to as a "pretzel hold," he said.

He said she grabbed at him when he tried to get away, causing him to fall and hit his head.

She took the child to the hospital as soon as she realized something was wrong, he said.

Judge Dartt said she believed Hawkins' remorse and acceptance of responsibility for the brain hemorrhage, but she expressed concern about the many other injuries noted by doctors.

- Erica Blake

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