EDWARDSVILLE — A Livingston man’s eczema defense and pleas to the public failed him, as a jury Wednesday took just 27 minutes to convict him of aggravated battery to a child.
Eric Duane Hurley, 32, took the witness stand in his own behalf Wednesday, and insisted the circular wounds, described by the victim and her doctor as burns, were sudden outbursts of eczema, an allergic skin rash. The child had bouts of eczema, but doctors testified that the skin rash did not resemble the round wounds seen in pictures shown to the jury.
Hurley was arrested and charged in October 2010, about two weeks after the child reported to her biological father that “Mr. Eric” had burned her with a cigarette because she would not stop crying.
Hurley and the child’s mother appeared on the Dr. Phil Show in August 2012. The child had just turned 3 when she was burned and is now 6.
The father took her to a Litchfield emergency room, and hospital personnel called the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which conducted an investigation. Shortly after that, the mother gave up custody, and the child was placed in custody of the father.
The father took the child to her pediatrician, Dr. Chris Wangard, who examined her. The doctor, a board certified pediatrician, testified this week that the marks were intentionally inflicted wounds, consistent with cigarette burns. He told the jury he had treated the child for eczema, and the burn marks did not look like the allergic skin rash.
Hurley’s own witness, Dr. Barry Zeffren, a board certified allergist, testified that eczema “has non-specific borders,” contrary to the round marks created by the cigarette burns. The doctor saw the child almost a year before the burning incident and confirmed that she suffered from eczema.
Defense attorney Steve Griffin, in his closing argument, also advanced the eczema theory, but offered an alternative theory, that the mother burned the child.
“I don’t believe they were burns, at all,” Hurley testified. He vigorously denied burning the child.
Hurley and the victim’s mother appeared on the “Dr. Phil Show” in 2012 to deny burning the 3-year-old child, and apparently Hurley posted comments on The Telegraph’s Facebook page Tuesday evening claiming that the story of the burns was made up by the child’s biological father in the midst of a custody battle.
Others apparently close to the family posted remarks that the case had nothing to do with a custody and that the mother had voluntarily given up custody.
The story touched off a rash of posts on The Telegraph Facebook page, with dozens of people taking both sides on the issue.
A Facebook account apparently belonging to Hurley posted a remark that he insisted on the polygraph test, which he passed. Others posted comments on the fact that polygraph tests are not reliable, and that is why they are not allowed in court.
In addition to the Dr. Wangard testifying that the child related that “Mr. Eric” burned her, the jury also hear testimony from the victim, who repeated those same words. The child’s father also related the same story from the child, and the jury saw and heard a recording in which the child said “Mr. Eric burned me with a cigarette, and Mom beat him.”
The victim “told you and everyone else who would listen that the defendant burned her,” Assistant State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe said in her closing argument.
The mother was also charged with aggravated battery to a child, but the charges were dropped. Hurley testified Wednesday that, as far as he knows, she is living in New Mexico.
Uhe and First Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Vucich said the speedy verdict is indicative of the strength of their case.
“I am happy to finally, after four years, bring justice to (the victim),” Uhe said.
“Child abuse will never be tolerated in Madison County, and Crystal Uhe worked hard to prevent it,” Vucich said.
Sanford Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.