Trial date set for Arkansas couple in rat biting case

Charles Elliott and Erica Shryock

MAGNOLIA, Ark — A trial date has been set for a southwest Arkansas couple who are charged with allowing their 2-week old daughter to be bitten by rats.

The Magnolia Banner-News reported that 19-year-old Charles Elliott and 18-year-old Erica Shryock are to be tried Jan. 24-25 in Columbia County Circuit Court.

Defense attorney Joseph Churchwell said the pair have declined an undisclosed plea bargain offered by prosecutors. He has also filed an intent to use a defense of mental disease or defect.

A mental evaluation of the pair suggested both suffer mental illness, but are competent to stand trial.

The two were charged with permitting child abuse and endangering the welfare of a minor after the newborn was rushed to the hospital back in May.

Reports indicated the 15-day-old child suffered bite wounds on her arms, fingers, hands and face. Police told KARK that the baby had a one-inch wound on her forehead so deep that her skull was visible.

Police spoke with Elliott’s mother, the child’s grandmother, who said he told her a mouse bit the baby and that he was worried about losing custody.

Elliott’s mother allegedly told him he should take the girl to a hospital anyway.

Investigators then spoke with Shyrock, who said she woke up to the baby screaming on Sunday morning and found her covered in blood, according to KARK. Authorities said Elliott gave a similar statement, adding that when he went to clean up the blood, he saw rat footprints in the crib.

Shyrock said that she knew rats were in their home, but that she and Elliott hadn’t done anything to solve the problem, police said.

When police searched the home they found a bassinet with bloody rat footprints and a baby’s hat and blanket soaked in blood.

A doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital said the baby girl suffered severe skin deconstruction “from rat feeding,” and that it would have taken hours for the injuries to occur, according to KSLA.

The doctor concluded that the parents were either incapacitated or not present when the rodent or rodents continuously bit the girl.