4-Year-old beaten, whipped and scalded; mom, boyfriend jailed

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Police have arrested a Phoenix mother and her live-in boyfriend in connection with a child-abuse case investigators say is one of the worst they have ever seen.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson said a 4-year-old girl is in extremely critical condition after what appears to be ongoing abuse, the most recent instance of which was just two days ago.

Ashley Buckman and James Edwards, both 22, are being booked on several counts each of child abuse and failure to protect a child.

Thompson said the little girl apparently soiled her bed Tuesday. As a result, Buckman allegedly beat her. The next night, Buckman slapped the little girl. At that point, the child stopped breathing.

Emergency crews were called to an apartment in the area of 19th Avenue north of Northern Avenue at about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

"When the fire department got there, they immediately recognized that this child who was not breathing at the time was actually the victim of child abuse," Thompson said.

In talking with Buckman and Edwards, investigators learned that the little girl had been beaten on several occasions.

"There were injuries basically head to foot," Thompson said. The little girl had abrasions and bruises, as well as whip marks possibly made by a hanger and apparent scald marks on her lower body.

"Because of the nature of the marks, it appears the child was intentionally scalded with hot water in the bathtub," Thompson said.

At this point, doctors are trying to determine exactly how old some of the girl's injuries are.

Detectives are calling this one of the most egregious instances of child abuse they have ever seen.

"These are detectives who have 25 years of experience with the department, have been working homicide for a long time," Thompson said.

Buckman and Edwards have a 1-year-old child. That child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Thompson said there did not appear to any abuse involving the 1-year-old.

Thompson also said there were no open cases or reports of child abuse involving the victim of her parents.

According to Thompson, Buckman and Edwards initially lied to police about what had happened to the little girl and then "began to minimize the effects" as officers learned the facts.

Based on statements Buckman made to police and records they have obtained, investigators believe that Buckman herself had been repeatedly abused as a child.

"As we see in this case, it appears that it passed from generation to generation," Thompson said.

The charges in this case are not just child abuse, but also failure to protect a child or render aid.

"People need to understand that if they're in a home where abuse is taking place -- even though they may not be committing that abuse -- they are responsible to render aid or to summon the authorities to help those people out."

Buckman and Edwards were arrested Wednesday night. Neither had anything to say as they were escorted from the Phoenix Police Department to a patrol car waiting to take them to Fourth Avenue Jail.