Judge says mom can stand trial; Accused of abusing her 2 children
By Kelly Soderlund Journal Gazette, May 26, 2007

Ft. Wayne, IN

An Allen Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a Fort Wayne woman accused of beating her two young children is competent to stand trial.

Juquita R. Pledger, 22, of the 2800 block of Millbrook Drive, is charged with one count of criminal confinement, two counts of battery and two counts of neglect of a dependent.

According to court documents, Pledger and her boyfriend bound Pledger’s 6-year-old daughter with duct tape and beat her with a TV cord and broomstick Jan.15. They also tried to make her drink bleach, threatened to drown her and burned her 3-year-old brother on a stove, according to court records.

Her boyfriend, Christopher D. Woods, 19, of the 4500 block of Austin Drive, is charged with two counts of battery, one count of criminal confinement and one count of intimidation. Judge John F. Surbeck, ruled Tuesday that Pledger’s older daughter could testify in the trial but her 3-year-old son was incompetent.

Pledger, who is pregnant, and Woods were called to Study Elementary School on Jan.16 when a teacher noticed the girl shivering in her seat and saw the marks on her body. The children have been placed with child protective services.

Two clinical psychologists testified at a hearing Friday that Pledger understands the difference between right and wrong. One doctor said he based his opinion on Pledger’s general demeanor, her ability to answer questions clearly and efficiently and her ability to reference details from the day of the alleged crime.

The doctors said Pledger said she was abused when she was a child and tried to rationalize her actions.

“She knew it was wrong but she felt that she did it because that was the way she was raised,” Dr. Stephen Ross said.

PLEDGER: "I don’t think spanking is wrong. It happened to me, and I turned out OK."
“I don’t know that spanking can be taken as battery. I don’t think spanking is wrong. It happened to me, and I turned out OK,” another doctor said, reading from Pledger’s statement from when he examined her. “She indicated that she felt she was disciplining her child. She was surprised at the severity of the charges in terms of being felonies.”

Ross said he contacted Pledger’s aunt, who denied Pledger’s allegations that she and her ex-husband abused her as a child.

He tried to contact Pledger’s mother to no avail.

In his report, Ross said Pledger may have been under stress because of her pregnancy, and although she had depressive features, it did not rise to the level of declaring her incompetent. ksoderlund@jg.net



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