ST. HELENS, Ore. -- A babysitter who pleaded guilty to assaulting a toddler in Columbia County served just hours in jail for her crime.
Now, that baby's mother feels the justice system has failed her son. The babysitter is also changing her story; she now denies physically abusing the toddler.
Crystal Nagel noticed something wasn’t right with her son Paxton several months ago.
"He was acting really weird,” Nagel said.
Nagel said Paxton was withdrawn and didn’t want to be touched or held. Paxton eventually developed a swollen lip that Nagel noticed after he’d been in the care of his father’s fiancé, Natasha Kral.
“He couldn't close his mouth,” Nagel said.
Nagel became suspicious about how Paxton’s lip got hurt. She took off his clothes to check out the rest of his body and found more marks.
“He had seven welts going from his shoulders going to the bottom of his butt,” Nagel explained.
She called St. Helens police. The investigating officer wrote in the police report that the welts on Paxton looked like they were caused by a wooden spoon or something similar. Police made Nagel take Paxton to the emergency room, where a doctor determined Paxton had been abused.
Kral was eventually charged with third degree felony assault for hitting Paxton, and causing physical injuries to his body.
"I was just in shock,” said Nagel, “I didn’t know what to think.”
Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison said there’s no child abuse charge in Oregon. Kral was charged with assault because the other options, child neglect and endangering the welfare of a child, don’t cover physical abuse.
Kral pleaded guilty to the assault charge on July 9. She was sentenced to 10 days in the Columbia County Jail, 20 days on the sheriff’s work crew, three years of probation, and instructed to take a parenting class.
Atchison said Kral reported to the jail at 3:30 p.m. on Monday to start her 10-day sentence. Kral was released at 7:17 a.m. on Tuesday due to jail overcrowding. She only served 16 hours of her 10-day sentence.
Kral met with KATU News reporter Hillary Lake Wednesday night to explain why she pleaded guilty.
“That's what my attorney told me to do to speed the process up,” Kral said.
Kral has other children in the state’s custody; she’s trying to get her children back. One of those children is a 3-month-old boy who shares Paxton’s father. Kral is engaged to Paxton’s dad, and Nagel’s ex, Brandon Pitts. Kral and Nagel are also cousins.
“I’m a good mom,” Kral said, “I love Paxton dearly with all my heart and this is just an unfortunate event.”
Kral also said she didn’t abuse Paxton, despite her guilty plea.
“I deny 100 percent that I did not use anything to hit him,” Kral said.
Paxton is now on his way back to being an active toddler.
Nagel calls him “a completely different child.” She said his emotional scars are still there.
Paxton has been in therapy because of what he endured. Nagel said he learned some of the behavior that was cast on him, so he’s being taught not to do things like hitting.
Nagel said she shared Paxton’s story because she doesn’t want any other families to have to go what Paxton has gone through.