ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A woman accused of beating and mutilating her 3-year-old daughter in St. Louis endured her own violent past.
Clintresa Phillips, 21, saw her mother stabbed to death and has been raped three times, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported Thursday.
Phillips sits in a St. Louis County jail, charged with first-degree assault while her daughter, Valerie, clings to life in a St. Louis hospital.
Valerie was in serious but stable condition Thursday with wounds investigators believe were made by electrical cords, lit cigarettes, blunt objects and needle-nose pliers. Valerie’s lips and ears are mangled and she is missing teeth.
“I’ve been a cop for the last 10 years,” said Tim Allen, a suburban St. Louis police officer investigating the case, “and this is the worst child abuse case I’ve ever seen.”
Clintresa Phillips was herself only 3 when she watched as her mother was tied up and stabbed to death in a Chicago apartment, her relatives said. They say the crime was never solved.
At age 14, Phillips was raped in a St. Paul public housing complex by a gang member, said Adrian Henderson, the aunt who brought Phillips to St. Paul at age 10 and raised her.
Social workers say Phillips was raped twice more, including once by three men in front of Valerie.
Teachers noticed a learning disability when Phillips was in kindergarten and she took special education classes all through school, relatives said. One of her social workers, Anna Jackson, said Phillips had the mental capacity of a fourth-grader.
Phillips eventually ran away from her aunt’s home and met the man who fathered Valerie. When he joined the Navy, Phillips was left to raise the girl alone in a transitional home for young mothers.
But despite training from staff members at the home and from two Ramsey County social workers, Phillips didn’t regularly wash, feed or properly clothe her daughter, said Jackson, the home’s director.
Jackson also noticed a wound similar to those Missouri authorities discovered: a cigarette burn on Valerie’s right foot. Phillips blamed the abuse on a boyfriend.
Jackson said she and her husband, Kenneth Jackson, called Ramsey County officials several times to report Phillips abusing Valerie.
Ramsey County officials said they cannot talk about individual cases. But Dave Thompson, manager of family and children services for the Ramsey County Human Services Department, said workers act quickly when they spot abuse.
Five months ago, Phillips’ quest for independence led her to move to St. Louis. Her aunt said she went with a boyfriend she had met a month before who had promised to find her a secretarial job.
Phillips took a Greyhound bus with Valerie to Ferguson, Mo., a town of 25,000 on the outskirts of St. Louis. But when her relationship with the man soured, Phillips’ aunt said, he moved out.
Phillips never did get the secretarial job, or any other, Henderson said.
After Valerie stopped breathing early last week at Phillips’ apartment, police say Phillips and a roommate flagged an ambulance at a nearby gas station and asked the ambulance workers to save Valerie.
When paramedics removed Valerie’s shirt, they saw evidence of abuse. Initially, Phillips claimed Valerie was bruised from a fall, and authorities say there had been no abuse reports since Phillips moved to St. Louis. But police say Phillips later admitted to hitting her daughter.