When a Riviera Beach woman struggled to potty-train a 3-year-old, she stopped feeding her.
No food meant no poop.
When the toddler began eating from the garbage, she tied together the child’s arms and legs.
By the time city police learned of what was happening at the home on Avenue F, the 3-year-old weighed 22 pounds and looked like a skeleton, officers said.
On Tuesday, authorities arrested 31-year-old Takeia Ann Burns on charges of aggravated child abuse and child neglect. Officers said she is to blame for the 3-year-old’s fractured rib, brain bleed and “possibility of severe mental trauma ... present and future.”
Burns said the child “eats all the time,” though an older child told police that some days, the toddler wouldn’t eat at all because Burns didn’t want her soiling her diaper.
Burns was released later Tuesday from the Palm Beach County Jail under supervision.
Her relationship to the 3-year-old, as well as to four other children ranging in age from 11 to 9 months old in the home, is redacted from police records.
The child still is in a hospital recovering. The Florida Department of Children and Families placed all of the remaining children with a relative.
Records show someone contacted police Monday about an allegedly abused and malnourished child. That afternoon an officer went to the home and met a girl in a red sweater who walked “abnormally” slowly.
The toddler wouldn’t talk to the officer.
Authorities took the 3-year-old and a 9-month-old sibling to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach out of concern for their well-being. When a nurse took off the older child’s sweater, police and medical staff members noticed the ligature marks on the bends of her arms and similar marks, which come from being tied or strangled, on her thighs, records state.
The report did not elaborate on the infant’s condition.
The 3-year-old’s back, however, showed belt marks, and the child “appeared to be in pain whenever a part of her body was touched or moved by the nurse,” an officer wrote.
The girl had dried fecal matter in her diaper and was emaciated. Nurses tried to feed her, but she threw everything up.
The mother said she suspected the toddler suffered from bowel problems but didn’t take her to a doctor because her primary care physician no longer accepted their insurance.
The officer also interviewed an older child in the home, who said Burns wouldn’t let him feed the 3-year-old, though he could feed the other children in the home. He said Burns didn’t want the toddler to poop in her diaper.
Burns would leave the toddler alone in a room for hours and told the older boy to “mind his business” when he would check on the little girl, he said. Afraid Burns would “whoop him,” he stayed away.
Burns told an officer she didn’t think the bruise around the girl’s eye was too serious. The belt marks, she said, came from Burns hitting the girl whenever the girl soiled her diaper. She left the girl in dirty diapers as punishment as well, but not for long, she said.
An officer asked how Burns would feel if someone treated her as she acted toward the girl.
“I would feel sad, hurt, not loved,” she replied. “But (the child) is only 3, so she wouldn’t understand that.”
The 3-year-old weighed 22 pounds, Riviera Beach police records state.