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Rhea Co. step-grandmother accused of burning toddler's feet takes plea deal

Rhea County Detective Rocky Potter said Jennifer Vaughn will serve 100% of her time for 20 years after being charged with aggravated child abuse.

RHEA COUNTY, Tenn. — A Rhea County step-grandmother accused of dipping a toddler's feet into scalding hot water in August 2019 took a plea deal in court on Wednesday.

Rhea County Detective Rocky Potter said Jennifer Vaughn will serve 100% of her time for 20 years after being charged with aggravated child abuse.

The plea was accepted by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Graham, and authorities took Vaughn directly into custody.

On August 11, 2019, the Rhea County Sheriff's Office said a call came from a hospital that a toddler had burns and that it didn't appear to be an accident. Detective Rocky Potter said he conducted multiple interviews with family members and discovered the burns on the toddler's feet came from an attempt to "punish" the young girl.

"That had scald burns, which they call sock burns because the line of the burn is two inches above the ankles on both feet," said Potter. "They were at stage two at that time where the skin had actually bubbled up two to three inches off the baseline of the bone."  

Through interviews, Potter discovered what happened to the girl's feet. 

"This was a family member who was caring for the baby. That baby had spent a couple of nights there, just like several other children in the family unit had spent nights there," said Potter. 

Potter said these charges should fall under Haley's Law because of the age of the child and other factors in the case that meet the criteria.  

"One of the descriptors for Haley's Law, you do have to have injuries to the skin that would be permanent in nature, which this is. Horrendous and egregious which this definitely is. If the injuries could be disfiguring, which this is going to be disfiguring," said Potter. 

The child was treated at a hospital in Georgia. 

"The damage to the skin at this point, is the grafts aren't working as well as they would hope to," said Potter. "She's going to have to have skin grafts or attempted skin grafts for probably about 6 to 8 more weeks."