Highland County Juvenile Court Judge Kevin Greer granted Highland County Children Services temporary custody of two children Monday morning in a case that includes allegations he said were among the worst he’s seen in his tenure as judge.

The judge also said that he was unsure he had ever issued an order of “zero” contact for both parents, but he did so Monday.

A complaint was filed in Highland County Juvenile Court Thursday, Sept. 10 regarding alleged abused/neglected/dependent children. The complainant, Highland County caseworker Kim Lute, requested that the “Court grant Emergency Temporary Custody” of the two children to the Highland County Child Protective Services Agency “or other appropriate person, or in the alternative, make a finding and appropriate disposition pursuant to ORC 2151.353 or pursuant to ORC 2151.33(B)(1).”

The mother, an 18-year-old from Hillsboro, has been charged in Hillsboro Municipal Court with felonious assault, a second-degree felony, and endangering children, a third-degree felony. A preliminary hearing on the criminal charges has been scheduled for Sept. 22. The father is currently not facing charges, although the case is under investigation by the Highland County Sheriff’s Office.

Highland County assistant prosecutor Molly Bolek “asked the court to continue the temporary custody orders” during the hearing Monday.

Greer explained to the mother that both parents were entitled to an attorney and that Denny Kirk has been appointed as attorney and guardian ad litem for the children.

“What we’re dealing with here in this court is for me to decide whether or not your two children are either abused or neglected or dependent, and if so, what orders should be made concerning where they should be placed and issues like that,” Greer told the mother. “These two cases focus on the children. The cases you have in Municipal Court are criminal charges. Any questions?”

The mother began to refute something written about the children’s father in the Juvenile Court filing, but the judge stopped her.

“Let me interrupt you, ma’am, and here’s why,” Greer said. “If these factual allegations are found to be true, they’re extremely serious charges, and you should not say anything here today that will incriminate you further.”

Greer reviewed some of the allegations in the Juvenile Court complaint, which include a 3-month-old victim having “multiple fractures in various stages of healing, a fractured skull and a brain bleed.” The mother allegedly admitted to law enforcement that she “was the cause of [the victim’s] injuries” — with graphic alleged explanations for injuries to the child’s head, legs and arms — but the mother allegedly claimed she “did not cause the rib fractures” also suffered by the infant.

Greer said that according to the complaint, the mother also allegedly said she “did not take the child for medical care because she was scared of getting criminal charges.”

“You’re presumed innocent,” Greer said. “I understand that. But if these matters are found to be true and proven to me, you’re probably pretty fortunate I’m not the sentencing judge. This is as bad as it gets, plain and simple.

“This is just simply appalling to me. I’ve been doing this is a long time, and I don’t know that I’ve seen anything worse than this, though these are just allegations at this point.”

Greer asked the mother, “Do you object to Children Services having temporary custody of these two children at this point?”

The mother indicated she did object. The judge told her they would have to recess until he could hear evidence from the caseworker who filed the complaint.

After a recess of approximately 25 minutes, the hearing resumed with Kirk and Lute present, along with the children’s father.

Lute, who said she is an intake investigator for Highland County Children Services, testified that on Sept. 9, the agency was contacted by a Highland County Sheriff’s Office deputy who said they “suspected [the 3-month-old victim] was suffering from abuse.”

According to Lute’s testimony, the children’s father “noticed a bruise” on the 3-month-old’s eye and that the victim had a “swollen” arm but did not seek medical attention that day. After a “couple of days,” according to the complaint, Lute said that the victim’s father and a family friend took the 3-month-old to an urgent care, who “sent them to Highland District Hospital.”

“As far as the injuries to [the 3-month-old], what did the hospital determine?” Bolek asked.

“[The victim] has a skull fracture, all [the victim’s] ribs have been fractured, both arms have been fractured, both legs have been fractured and all are in various healing stages,” Lute said.

“Did they also determine that [the victim] had a brain bleed?” Bolek asked.

“Yes,” Lute said.

Bolek asked if there were any “reports of how injuries could have occurred.”

Lute testified that the mother told the father that “a babysitter made the injuries, and that she would not give the babysitter’s information and that her and her attorney were handling it.” The father also alleged that the mother “had pushed him while he was holding” the 3-month-old at one point but that he “did not have prior knowledge” of any injuries to the victim. The father also testified that he “would test positive for marijuana and Vicodin,” Lute said.

In speaking with the mother, Lute testified that the mother also told her that a babysitter had allegedly caused “all the injuries” and also alleged that the father had caused serious injury to the couple’s other child, a 16-month-old, by allegedly “kicking” the child “so hard” it caused a hernia.

Lute added that the mother did not admit to causing any injuries to the children in speaking with Lute, but allegedly the mother “admitted to causing all the injuries except for the rib fractures” to a sheriff’s deputy.

Kirk asked if the 3-month-old victim was still in the hospital. Lute said that both children have been placed in foster care.

“Will there be required follow-up appointments at the hospital to address these medical issues?” Kirk asked.

“Yes,” Lute said.

Kirk also asked Lute about the statement in her complaint alleging “various stages of healing” to the victim’s fractures. Lute testified that medical professionals did not give her a time frame for all the fractures but indicated “more than one incident” would have occurred to cause the injuries.

“The mother did not seek medical care. Is that correct?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lute said.

Bolek then asked Lute if efforts were made to find a relative for temporary placement of the children. Lute said that they “were looking at” a female relative, but “she had had contact with [the victim] within 48 to 72 hours.”

“We did not look at her for placement because we were not sure where the abuse was coming from at that point,” Lute said.

Following Lute’s testimony, Greer told the parents he was “not going to let either one of you make any further statements that might further incriminate you.”

“It’s clear to this court the agency shall have temporary custody of both of these children at this point,” Greer said. “If I’ve done this, I don’t remember it in the past, but neither one of these children are to have any contact with either child. None. Zero.

“These two children have been put through way too much already. I don’t want to put them through any more.”

Before adjourning, Greer again addressed both parents about the severity of the allegations.

“You two need to understand my job is to protect these kids,” Greer said. “You can rest assured I’m going to do that. They’re not going to be harmed by you any further, for the foreseeable future. Again, I want to hear all the evidence and we’ll see where that leads us, but these allegations are as bad as they get.”