Trial begins in enabling child abuse by injury case

Jurors began hearing testimony in the trial of a Muskogee woman whose boyfriend allegedly seriously injured her 3-year-old son while babysitting.

Holly Zuniga-Griffin, 22, is on trial for one count of enabling child abuse by injury. 

She was charged after her then-boyfriend, Chandler Blane Rice, 18, brought her bruised and unconscious son to her work between midnight and 1 a.m. Aug. 20, 2016, prosecutors say.

Zuniga-Griffin, who has been held on $50,000 bond since her arrest in August 2016, is accused of allowing Rice to babysit while she worked even though she either knew or should have known Rice was abusive, said Assistant District Attorney Ryan Ferguson during his opening statement on Monday afternoon.

Rice is charged with child abuse by injury. He returns to court in January and is set for the next jury docket, according to court records.

Ferguson told jurors that they will hear testimony and see text messages that indicate Zuniga-Griffin’s first concern that night was not for her son, though he suffered a subdural hematoma and was hospitalized that night with serious injuries.

Zuniga-Griffin allegedly texted a friend and told her “Don’t let Blane talk to anybody until we get on the same page,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson told jurors they would hear testimony that Zuniga-Griffin told several different stories to different law enforcement officers and nurses about how her son was injured, and that she had told coworkers in the past that “I know Blane is too hard on him. I told him to stop.”

Defense Attorney Dan Medlock said in his opening statement that Zuniga-Griffin had no reason to suspect her boyfriend was capable of doing serious harm to her son.

“Great story he just told you. But he only told you part of the story,” Medlock said to the jury. “You’re not going to have any question that, yes, he was abused. You will have to decide whether she knew about it or should have known that he was going to do this.”

Medlock told jurors they would hear testimony from a friend that stayed with Zuniga-Griffin and Rice that she never saw the boy being abused, nor saw bruises on him. Medlock also told jurors that subsequent text messages Zuniga-Griffin sent that night will show that she was concerned for her son and angry at her boyfriend.

“Should she have left him with him? Hindsight’s 20/20 — of course not. She knows that now,” Medlock said.

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