A Billings man accused of abusing a 3-year-old girl pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony assault on a minor.
Shea Michael Childers, 21, appeared in District Court by video from the county jail for arraignment. Childers was arrested Jan. 15 in Shepherd by the U.S. Marshals Violent Offender Task Force.
Judge Susan Watters set Childers' bond at $25,000.
Prosecutors allege that Childers abused his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter between Jan. 15 and Feb. 5, 2008. Doctors said the girl had extensive bruising over a large portion of her body and that she appeared to be "subjected to multiple episodes of nonaccidental trauma," court records state.
The case began last Feb. 5, when police were called to Billings Clinic. An 18-year-old woman had brought her 3-year-old daughter in for treatment of a large bruise on her face.
Doctors also found bruises on the girl's arms, legs, back, stomach, hips and buttocks, court records state.
The mother told officers that she lived with Childers at a Billings motel and worked full time at a fast-food restaurant. Childers did not have a job, she said, so he watched her daughter while she was at work.
The woman said she noticed bruising on her daughter over the previous three weeks, and the injuries had gotten progressively worse. The woman said she did not know what caused the bruises and thought maybe her daughter had a skin condition. She gave the girl vitamins, she said, but that did not help.
When she first noticed bruises and asked Childers about it, the woman said, Childers told her the girl had fallen down stairs. The bruising became worse, the woman said, and she started to suspect Childers of causing the injuries.
For a week before Feb. 5, the woman said, she wanted to take her daughter to the hospital, but Childers would not give her a ride. Childers denied hurting the child, she said, and became upset when she asked him about the injuries. The woman told officers that she did not cause the injuries to her daughter.
The woman said she took her daughter to the hospital by taxi because Childers refused to give her a ride. He refused to go with them, she said.
Officers went to the couple's motel but could not find Childers.
The next day, the woman called police to report that when she returned to the motel from the hospital, Childers was gone and had left a note. The note read, in part: "… you know why I'm gone and I'm sorry, it really is not what it looks like … please forgive my abrupt leave."
The woman said she met Childers in July 2007 and moved in with him three months later. She said Childers "often got stressed out" while caring for her daughter, but she saw him spank her only once, court records state.
The felony charge carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. A trial date will be set later.