Mother found not guilty of child abuse

A Richmond County Superior Court jury acquitted a mother of child abuse charges Thursday after several hours of deliberations.

Sara E. Harrill, 27, was found not guilty of three counts of cruelty to children at the conclusion of her four-day trial.

"There just wasn't any evidence against her," said defense attorney Pete Theodocion.

On March 19, 2007, Ms. Harrill rushed into then-St. Joseph Hospital with 7-month-old Parker Harrill in her arms, witnesses testified. The baby had a seizure of some kind, she told the hospital staff.

Later at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Hospital, Parker was found to have suffered severe brain damage and broken bones in both legs and his right arm. Neither Ms. Harrill nor her live-in boyfriend, James D. Jackson, 27, had an explanation for the baby's injuries.

Doctors testified this week that Parker's injuries were no accident. The brain damage occurred when Parker was either choked or suffocated, they said.

Mr. Theodocion said doctors estimated the brain injury occurred six to 12 hours before Ms. Harrill took Parker to the emergency room. Ms. Harrill was at work for most of that time frame, Mr. Theodocion said.

Her boyfriend testified for the prosecution this week. Mr. Jackson pleaded guilty on Oct. 27 in Richmond County Superior Court to two counts of cruelty to children in the second degree. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Assistant District Attorney Anthony Nicastro said Mr. Jackson admitted to negligent conduct.

Mr. Jackson testified that he took care of Parker while Ms. Harrill worked. He denied harming Parker. He said he never saw Ms. Harrill abuse Parker.

Parker, 3, is in foster care. He is unable to walk or communicate. He can eat a little on his own, but doctors doubt if he will ever be free of a feeding tube.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com