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April 18, 2013

Jury trial waived in child abuse case

GREENVILLE — Erin Elizabeth Saari, indicted in connection with a reported child abuse case from December 2011, has waived a jury trial in the case and may still plead guilty to a reduced charge in the case.

Saari, of West Tawakoni, formally waived the jury during a hearing Wednesday in the 196th District Court. Under agreed punishment recommendations included as part of court documents, Saari would enter an open plea of guilty to a charge of injury to a child, recklessly causing injury.

An open plea means no plea bargain agreement had been arranged in the case and that Saari would be subject to the full range of punishment.

The charge is a second degree felony, punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.

Judge Steve Tittle scheduled a May 6 disposition hearing in the case.

Trevor Scott Copeland of Quinlan was convicted in February in connection with the same incident and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Saari had previously pleaded not guilty.

During Copeland’s trial prosecutors announced Saari had agreed to testify against Copeland, in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser charge and a sentence of two years in a state jail.

Instead Saari’s trial on the original charge had been reset for May 6.

Saari and Copeland each received one indictment from the Hunt County grand jury for injury to a child by an act.

They were arrested on Dec. 14, 2011 and  charged in what authorities claimed was an assault on Saari’s 2-year-old daughter.

The indictment alleged the pair injured the child by “punching, kicking, hitting with blunt force trauma and/or strangling with hands, fists, ground, and/or an object unknown to the grand jury.”

The child recovered from the injuries.

Saari testified during Copeland’s trial that Copeland was responsible for the child’s injuries.

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