Somervell County resident Tasha Shontelle Hatcher, arrested last March after burning her 2-year-old daughter in her home’s kitchen oven, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Hatcher took a plea bargain offer through the office of District Attorney Dale Hanna, according to 18th District Court documents.
Hatcher’s injured child was treated for burns at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas the day of the incident, then released to the custody of Child Protective Services. The girl is now 3.
Hatcher also had a son who was approximately 7 years old at the time, but he had previously been removed from her custody by CPS.
Judge John E. Neill accepted the plea bargain and pronounced the sentence. Neill ruled that Hatcher will be credited for the 454 days she spent behind bars in the Somervell County Jail, where she was held on $300,000 bond after her arrest.
As part of the plea bargain, Hatcher waived any right to a motion for a new trial or appeal of the sentence.
The plea bargain was finalized on June 14. The order for Hatcher to be transferred to the Texas Department of Corrections was filed with the Somervell County District Clerk’s Office on June 20.
Hatcher, who was 34 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to two felony counts.
Count 1 was injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, a first-degree offense, which brought the 20-year prison term. The maximum sentence for that offense is 5 to 99 years or life.
Count 2 was cruelty to a non-livestock animal (a pet cat), enhanced, a state jail felony. It brought a 10-year prison term, which will run concurrently.
In April, Hatcher was given mental evaluation by a forensic psychologist, who determined that she was competent to stand trial. Court documents state that the psychologist noted Hatcher “had a significant history of substance use issues,” and “personality-related difficulties.”
The psychologist added, “Stimulant use disorder was diagnosed to account for her methamphetamine use.” Additionally, he stated that Hatcher “is not a person with intellectual disability.”
Court documents show that when Hatcher was interviewed on March 21, 2016 by two Somervell County Sheriff’s Office investigators, she told them she did not know what happened, and had been under the influence of drugs. She told them she had been addicted to drugs since age 15, including “marijuana, speed and pretty much everything.’
“She stated that she smoked meth and she had a really bad reaction to it and it made her do everything,” one document states. “She stated that the day this incident took place she was overwhelmed and had so many things going on. She stated that she knows she hurt ‘the baby’ but that is not her.”
The interviewers wrote that Hatcher told them “… she turned the oven on all the way and put the cat in there. Ms. Hatcher then laughed and stated that the cat is fine. She stated that she then put ‘my baby’ in there. She stated that it was a demonic action. She stated that they were both naked because they were going to take a shower.”
The document continued that Hatcher remembered “opening the oven and trying to put (her daughter) in. She advised that (her daughter) was screaming and telling her no. She advised that it dawned on her what she was doing and she took (her daughter) out of the oven and tried to protect her.”
Hatcher then stated that she ran to the home of a neighbor, who called the police.
A court document filed by First Assistant District Attorney Martin M. Strahan says that Hatcher’s statement to a CPS investigator indicated “she had used speed, marihuana and alcohol on the day of or days leading up to” the injury to the child.
That CPS investigator also stated in the document that “As we were leaving Ms. Hatcher finally asked how ‘the baby’ was doing and I told her. Ms. Hatcher began crying but there were no tears.”
The Texas Rangers also assisted in the investigation.
Hatcher was represented by attorney Richard De Los Santos of Cleburne.