Biloxi, Miss– Earlier this week, Kenneth Preston of Biloxi, 25, was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison on charges of federal child abuse after a 16 month-old suffered second, third, and fourth degree burns.
Preston was accused of putting the toddler into hot water. He entered an “Alford plea,” which is defined as a plea that does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that the evidence is stacked against him, reported local media.
The judge said a shorter sentence would have been given, had Preston shown remorse.
While Preston maintained his innocence and said the burning was an accident, fourth degree burns, by definition, call for a prolonged amount of force or inability on the victim’s part to move away from the heat source, or in this case, water.
“The degrees of a burn refer to the layers of the skin and tissue involved,” said Dr. Barry Berch, a pediatric surgeon with University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Fourth degree burns go through the layers of skin, fatty tissue, muscle, and in severe cases, to the bone…. it would take several minutes of exposure for a burn that deep.”
Berch said even with boiling hot water, dipping a finger in quickly and reflexively withdrawing the finger would be a quick enough reaction to avoid a second degree burn. Reflexes spare the flesh from deep, intense burns, unless there is a reason that one cannot get away from the heat source–whether by force or inability to move.
As far as recovery from a burn that severe, Dr. Berch said a case that severe would see lifelong impacts.
“There would be months in the hospital, surgeries, rehab, and treatment,” said Berch. “There would be multiple skin grafts just to get coverage, healing from those, then rehabilitation of the muscles and bone, if it was effected.”
Berch said that while muscles can be rebuilt, lifelong scarring and complications would still remain.
“Depending on whether or not this was a limb,” said Berch. “You may never regain full mobility or function.”