Citrus County toddler severely abused and neglected, mother arrested

CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. - The Citrus County Sheriff's Office is investigating an extreme case of child abuse.

According to reports, a 17-month-old toddler is hospitalized at All Children's Hospital with traumatic injuries that investigators say were caused by her own mother.

Alyssia Skinner, 22, from Hernando faces eight charges ranging from abuse to torture to caging a child.

The report states that Skinner repeatedly and violently shook the child, confined the child to a small, cold room for long periods of times that the child suffered hypothermia.  The report indicated that Skinner confined the child in a dimly lit room with an air conditioner running, a loud radio playing, and no toys for long periods of time.  Investigators also said Skinner withheld food from the toddler for long periods of time which caused muscle and brain atrophy and long term developmental damage.  

"There baby bottles with maggots actually in the baby bottles, soiled diapers, it was just a horrible situation," said Heather Yates with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

When detectives arrived to check on the welfare of the child, Skinner tried to conceal her identity and claimed she had never given birth.

Skinner then ran to the back of the home and tried to remove the child, according to reports.

When EMS arrived, the child was cold to the touch and appeared malnourished.  They also witnessed bright red rashes on the victim's legs.  

The child was rushed to Citrus Memorial Hospital for treatment.  A scan, of the child's head, detected subdural hemorrhaging.  She was flown to All Children's Hospital due her condition.

The report indicates the child's legs cannot be straightened from a curled, fetal position, due to the child's attempt to conserve body heat.  Her muscles and tendons are so severely damaged that doctors could not straighten them, even under sedation.  

In addition, the child was so severely malnourished; she has suffered from re-feeding syndrome, which occurs after being starved for long periods of time.  The body negatively reacts when reintroduced to food.

Doctors also found that the child's brain tissue had blood on the surface of her brain.  The report indicates this is consistent with abusive head trauma and commonly seen in "Shaken Baby" cases.

Gary and Rhonda Maser have identified the child as their granddaughter Isabella.  A paternity test recently proved their son Alex is Isabella's father.

Once paternity was established, Alex Maser went to court along with his family, to get joint custody.

"He wants to be a part of this baby's life and this whole situation has left him numb," said Rhonda.

Alex told ABC Action News he started court proceedings in December and immediately began paying child support. Alex's parents also began pushing to see the child while the case slowly moved through the courts.

According to the Masers, they scheduled multiple visits only to have Skinner cancel last minute.  They were expecting to see Isabella on Christmas.  Just hours before they  were to meet face-to-face for the first time, Skinner allegedly made an excuse why the couldn't come visit with her.

"She just put the brakes on," Rhonda recalled.

Not wanting Skinner to feel threatened by their frequent request to see Isabella, the Maser family backed off.  In that time, Skinner moved.

"I only knew her address from court documents," Rhonda said.

It was not until Wednesday, two days after deputies found Isabella, that the Maser family was made aware Isabella is clinging to life at the hospital.

"She said [the caseworker], the only thing that could be worse is if I were to tell you we were burying her," Rhonda recalled.

The caseworker brought photographs of Isabella for the family to see.

"Isabella has no skin on her bottom or her thighs from laying in her own human waste.  She has a hole in her face.  We are not even sure what that is from.  Her brain has shifted to one side of her head," Rhonda explained.

"It was a rough night," said Gary.

Isabella's father was so overcome with emotion he was unable to talk on camera.  All he could say is that the situation has left him numb,

"You think, what could I have done differently?  What should I have done?" Rhonda said.

Skinner allegedly told deputies she abused her daughter because her physical appearance reminded her of the Maser family.

"She had my strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. That she looked like me and looked like my son and that is why she did this," Rhonda explained while choking up.

Rhonda will meet her granddaughter for the first time Saturday afternoon at the hospital.


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