EDWARDSVILLE — A man who appeared on the “Dr. Phil Show” to deny he burned a 3-year-old child multiple times with a cigarette is now facing a Madison County jury.
Eric D. Hurley, 32, of Livingston is in trial facing a charge of aggravated battery to a child for allegedly burning the child on the face, hand, stomach and leg because she wouldn’t stop crying. He was charged on Oct. 13, 2010, 13 days after the incident.
“It is hard to believe something this horrible,” Assistant State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe told the jury.
However, Hurley’s attorney Steve Griffin, of East Alton, told the jury the child suffered from eczema, a skin rash, and hinted the doctor who examined her could be confused. He also suggested that, even if there were burns on the child, perhaps they were caused by someone else.
Hurley and the child’s biological mother appeared on the “Dr. Phil Show” in August 2012, claiming they were desperate to get out from under the charges. Hurley claimed he was attacked by someone who thought he was guilty.
“These are disgusting charges, and they absolutely did not happen,” Hurley told the show host, Phil McGraw, psychologist and author. “I’m praying that somebody out here can understand and offer us some kind of help, because we’re just at the end of our rope with all of this.”
Hurley passed a polygraph test given by what the host called a renowned expert. The mother bailed out on the test because, she told the host, she became upset at the excessive, repeated questioning.
The polygraph expert told the television audience that he saw “suspicious signs” in her behavior.
The state ended up dropping the charges against the mother for lack of evidence.
During testimony Tuesday, the mother was never accused of burning the child. The child appeared and said “I was bad, so Mr. Eric burned me with a cigarette.”
The child’s natural father testified he and the mother had split, and his daughter was staying with the mother and Hurley in Livingston at times and with him at times.
When he picked the child up one day, she exhibited “boo boos” to her body. The next day, she had more of the same wounds, and she told him, “Mr. Eric burned me with a cigarette because I wouldn’t stop crying.”
The father described small circular wounds, the likes of which he had not seen before. He said she has had outbursts of eczema, and this did not look like eczema, which came and went quickly. The suspected burns took longer to heal, he said.
He said he took the child to an emergency room in Litchfield, and the personnel there called the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate.
Dr. Chris Wangard, who was the child’s pediatrician at the time, testified to seeing the wounds. They were all nearly perfect circles and all nearly exactly the same in appearance, except that they had healed at different rates.
They were not eczema — they were “non-accidental burns,” said Dr. Wangard, who is board certified in pediatrics. “What I saw appeared to fit the classic pattern of cigarette burns,” Wangard said. He said he had seen burns and eczema many times in his years of practice. He also said the child told him, “Eric did it.”
Uhe said that the child also had an interview at the Child Advocacy Center in Wood River, a place at which young victims go to be interviewed by experts. She said the interview will show the child stating she doesn’t like Mr. Eric because her burns her with cigarettes.
The state’s case before Circuit Judge Kyle Napp will continue Wednesday with testimony from the interviewer.
Sandford Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org