Mother testifies in chemical-burn trial

Teens charged with pouring drain cleaner on a slide

December 01, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt

The mother of the toddler burned by chemicals left on a slide at a Middle River playground testified yesterday at the trial of two teenagers accused of pouring the industrial-grade drain cleaner on the equipment.

Several police officers also testified in the closed-door hearing. The boys, ages 16 and 17, are being tried as juveniles before Baltimore County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Martin.

The defense portion of the case is scheduled to continue Dec. 10.

The teenagers have been charged with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, burglary, theft and malicious destruction of property in the case.

After going down the slide at the Victory Villa Elementary School on April 14, 3-year-old Payton Potochney suffered second- and third-degree burns to both legs and his lower back.

He spent several months at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.

His mother, Carol Duschl, said yesterday she oversees his daily physical therapy and massages the boy's scars to reduce return trips to the hospital. But she said she still has to take him for check-ups every few weeks.

She said that he continues to have nightmares that began after the incident. "He wakes up screaming three or four times a night," she said yesterday outside the courtroom.

She said she hopes the teenagers are ordered to perform community service at a burn unit for children "so it scars their brains like it did mine."

The lawyer for the teenagers maintains the boys poured the chemical on the slide to see if it would melt the plastic.

"This is a `malicious destruction' crime gone bad," said the lawyer, Henry J. Wegrocki.

At Wegrocki's request, the judge barred reporters from listening to testimony yesterday.

Prosecutor Robin Coffin said the request is fairly standard in juvenile proceedings.

The teenagers continue to wear electronic monitoring and remain on home detention.

Prosecutors decided to pursue adult charges after receiving reports that other playground equipment, including handlebars, had been lathered with the acid. But another judge sent the case back to juvenile court in July.

The Sun is not identifying the boys because they are charged as juveniles.

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