Jury finds man guilty of immersing his 2-year-old in hot water

Dartanya Levon Eaton

Dartanya Levon Eaton

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Forsyth County jury found a Winston-Salem man guilty Monday of immersing his then 2-year-old son in scalding water, resulting in second-degree burns.

Dartanya Levon Eaton was retried on a charge of felony child abuse inflicting serious injury in connection with a June 2008 incident. Eaton was sentenced to 13 years and 11 months to 17 years and six months in prison.

In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said Eaton became angry after his son defecated on himself, and that he took him to the bathroom where he knew the cold water wasn’t working.

Eaton filled the bathtub with water as hot as 135 degrees and he placed his son into the water, Chavious said. When the child screamed in pain, Chavious said Eaton told his son to shut up and sit down.

Eaton and the child’s mother, Carla Marie Daniels, did not take the child to the hospital for three days. The child had second-degree burns on his buttocks, legs, genitals, ankles and feet, she said. According to testimony during the trial, Chavious said, Tusha Eaton, Eaton’s cousin and a register nurse, had told the couple that the child needed medical attention and that by the time the child was taken to the hospital, the blisters had become infected.

Dartanya Eaton testified during the trial that he never intentionally hurt his son and denied that he had placed his son in the scalding hot water. He said he had taken the child to the bathroom, ran hot water and left to get cold water. He said he thought his son was with him. But by the time he got to the bathroom, his son was halfway out of the bathtub and complaining about the hot water.

He said his son appeared fine and that he had called Tusha Eaton when he noticed a couple of blisters on his son. Even then, he didn’t think his son was seriously injured.

Richard Ramsey, Eaton’s attorney, said in closing arguments that prosecutors presented no evidence that conclusively proved that Eaton intentionally hurt his son. The medical experts who testified on behalf of the state could only say they had suspicions that Eaton’s son had been abused. Ramsey also questioned Daniels’ credibility, saying that she had given false statements and that she had been previously convicted of misdemeanor abuse. She also had run-ins with the Forsyth County Department of Social Services and was afraid of losing her son, Ramsey argued.

Chavious said that Daniels wasn’t the perfect mother and had been in a violent relationship with Eaton. Daniels lost custody of her son and was charged for her role in the scalding of her son, Chavious said.

This is the second time that Eaton is being tried for physically abusing his son. A Forsyth County jury convicted Eaton after a trial in 2011, but the N.C. Court of Appeals overturned the conviction because Eaton’s habitual-felon status was mentioned during the trial.

In the first trial, Eaton was sentenced to 13 years and 11 months to 17 years and six months in prison, the same sentence imposed Monday.

Daniels pleaded guilty to felony accessory after the fact to felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury and misdemeanor contributing to a juvenile’s being delinquent, undisciplined, abused or neglected. She was sentenced to two years to three years and two months in prison. She was released in March 2013.

The jury deliberated this afternoon.