NEW PORT RICHEY — The 18-year-old mother accused of holding her infant son under scalding water for several minutes made her first court appearance Thursday since authorities filed a new second-degree murder charge against her.
Speaking softly, Chekayla Ariel Dampier answered questions from Circuit Judge Mary Handsel, saying she understood the charge and could not afford a lawyer. The judge appointed her a public defender. Asked whether she wanted to make any other statements, Dampier declined.
A Pasco County Sheriff's Office report says Dampier held her 7-week-old son, Emilio Jesus Bautista, under hot running water for two to three minutes until his skin started "coming off and other parts of his skin were 'bubbling.' "
Investigators said the water measured 142 degrees, and the medical examiner's office said the boy had burns covering 21 percent of his body.
Dampier told deputies she held her son under the water because he wouldn't stop crying, authorities say.
She was charged with aggravated child abuse after the April 16 incident, but the charge was upgraded to murder this week after Emilio died Saturday from his injuries.
Doctors at Tampa General Hospital also found that Emilio had liver damage from blunt force trauma. According to an updated sheriff's report released Wednesday, Dampier told detectives that a day or two before the burning incident, she "hit the victim in the stomach and chest several times, until he vomited." She told detectives she hit her son "because he was crying and bloated," the report says.
Family and friends of the teen said she was a single mother with a history of problems. Dampier of Port Richey is being held at the Land O'Lakes jail without bail.