Groton foster mother appears in court on child abuse charges

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The Groton foster mother charged with failing to prevent a child in her care from becoming emaciated and severely injured appeared in New London Superior Court on Thursday, after the case has fallen under increased scrutiny in light of a report released this week by the state’s child advocate.

Crystal Magee, 32, was charged in February with risk of injury to a minor and cruelty to persons after the 18-month-old boy, who is the son of her cousin, was taken to the Pequot Medical Center emaciated with sunken eyes, wasted muscles and broken bones. She pleaded not guilty to the charges, posted a $100,000 bond and has been making regular court appearances while her attorney, Linda J. Sullivan, reviews the evidence and engages in pretrial discussions with prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman.

On Monday, state Child Advocate Sarah Egan released a report highly critical of the way the Department of Children and Families handled the case.

Several media outlets have been reporting on the story, and on Thursday, a TV station sought and was granted permission to film Magee’s brief court appearance despite the objection of her attorney.

“My client is afraid for her personal safety, and this has really gotten out of control,” Sullivan said.

Judge Hillary B. Strackbein said she could not deny the camera request. Magee, who had come into the courtroom with an older woman, stood before the court briefly as Sullivan updated the judge on the case.

“I’m still seeking discovery, still having evaluations done and reviews by experts,” Sullivan said. “I just received the Office of the Child Advocate report this morning and need time to review that.”

The judge continued the case to Nov. 29, and Magee left the courtroom with the older woman.

During the police investigation, Magee told police she initially agreed to keep the child for a month but had him for five months. She said she told DCF that she could not care for the child because she has a chronic lung disease and her husband has a brain tumor, the affidavit said.

The child welfare department has been working to place children with relatives when they are removed from their parents. The child advocate’s report indicated Magee had been the subject of prior allegations of abuse and neglect and that her husband has a criminal history.

The report also found that DCF employees who were handling the case failed to prevent the child from nearly starving to death.

k.florin@theday.com

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