An Army staff sergeant has been accused of severely abusing and neglecting her young stepdaughter, according to reports from a public defender and assistant state's attorney in Harford County District Court on Tuesday.
The child, who is almost 5 years old, was below 5 percent of the normal weight for her age and had severe burns on her hand, which her stepmother allegedly inflicted because the child stole food, assistant state's attorney Lisa Marts said.
The stepmother, 27-year-old Monique Latrise Beneke, of the 2000 block of Bayberry Road in Edgewood, was ordered held without bail during a hearing in front of District Court Judge Susan Hazlett.
Beneke has lived in Harford County since being reassigned to the Edgewood post from Hawaii in August, a public defender said.
The child gained three pounds after being placed in foster care last Wednesday, Marts said.
Beneke has three other children younger than 9, the public defender said.
The county's Child Advocacy Center, which is handling the case, briefly talked with two of her other children, but lost access to them after Beneke pulled them out of school Monday, Marts said.
Marts noted Beneke has a previous abuse investigation in Hawaii and called this "a very serious case."
Marts showed Hazlett photos of the abuse. The public defender objected to them being shown during the bail review, but Hazlett overruled her.
Beneke has been in the Army for nine years after she graduated from high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., the public defender said. Her husband remains in Hawaii, she said.
She has been charged with first-degree child abuse for severe physical injuries, second-degree child abuse, neglect of a minor and first- and second-degree assault.
Charging documents for the incident were not available. Christopher Tabone, the assistant state's attorney who will be handling the case, was also not available for comment.