Irma Mustamu and Kenneth Chavelier were arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for neglect of a child causing great harm. Both remain in custody in lieu of paying $50,000 bail bond. According to jailhouse records, neither Mustamu nor Chavelier has a criminal defense attorney.
The allegations emerged after an anonymous tipper called authorities to report that a child was being tortured. On Tuesday, police and a child protection agent were dispatched to the Crossland Economy Studios Hotel on Commercial Boulevard, where the family was staying. Authorities found the couple with their two-year-old daughter, whose hand was wrapped in cloth. When they removed the cloth, they found that the girl’s hand was disfigured, missing one finger and parts of two others.
“I just can’t begin to imagine the pain this child felt,” police spokesman Detective Travis Mandell said of the injury. “This is too grotesque of a crime for someone to not know where it happened.”
According to the couple, who testified in an initial hearing before a magistrate judge, the girl was burned by hot soup in August 2010. The couple says that after the soup spilled on the girl’s hand, they treated her by looking up instructions on children’s burn remedies on the Internet rather than getting her medical attention. Why they did not get the girl medical attention is unclear in their story.
The pair says they then fled to Florida because they were afraid that their child would be taken away. Although Mustamu is the child’s biological mother, it is not clear if Chavelier is the biological father.
This story doesn’t match up with records, say authorities. The little girl was seen by a pediatrician in October 27, 2010 and the doctor reported that she had no physical injuries. Furthermore, a doctor who looked at the child’s injuries on Tuesday said that they were from physical abuse. Authorities are not sure what caused the girl’s injuries and are asking the public to come forward with information.
The magistrate judge told the couple that “the court today is pretty satisfied that you and Mr. Chavelier are both transient to South Florida,” meaning they posed a risk of fleeing if they were to be released. “The court does not believe you have any roots to the area and the court will consider that in regard to your bond. The court will also consider the level of violence toward the child.” The pair will be required to wear GPS tracking devices if they do pay bond, although there is no indication that they will at this time.
Child Welfare records in Maryland are locked, so there is no way to know whether the family had a record with such entities there. However, Chavelier’s arrest records from Maryland indicate that he has been charged with fleeing, assault and gun possession. He is currently working in Fort Lauderdale as a day laborer.
The Department of Children and Families is currently providing the child with a place to stay as well as medical care. They are searching for relatives that may be able to take the little girl in, accor