A man and woman in Ray County, Mo., have been charged with more than 50 felony counts of child abuse and neglect after authorities say a 9-year-old girl was physically abused for months, including instances where the child was allegedly struck with an ax.
The couple, Mario A. Barreto, 29, and Melissa A. Holloway, 25, were booked into the county jail on March 9, according to the Ray County Sheriff's Office. Both have addresses listed in Camden, Mo.
Barreto faces 29 charges of child abuse or neglect, while Holloway is charged with 22 counts of child abuse or neglect and one count of hindering prosecution of a felony. Both entered not guilty pleas in circuit court on Tuesday.
Court documents allege the abuse of the 9-year-old started around last August. The child was in the care of Barreto, who is listed as her uncle.
When the girl was injured and taken to a hospital on Feb. 21, medical personnel suspected repeated physical abuse. Court records said fingers on the girl's right hand were crushed with the backside of an ax head, the girl said.
That injury required multiple surgeries, including amputation of a portion of her ring finger.
Upon further examination, court records said, the girl had numerous other healing injuries, including a fracture of her left forearm, left wrist and seven ribs; bruising on her head, arm and legs; scarring on her left ear due to laceration; multiple abrasions on both shins; and indentations in the tissue on the buttocks and thighs "apparently due to traumatic injury."
Medical personnel told authorities the girl had not received any medical care in the two to three years she lived with her uncle — aside from a one-time emergency room visit for exposure to poison sumac.
The girl told authorities that the injuries were caused by her uncle, Barreto.
She said her hand was injured when Barreto came home and found she didn't finish chopping wood as directed. The girl said her uncle made her place her hand on a fallen tree, and he hit her hand with the backside of an ax head.
She stated Barreto and his girlfriend agreed on a "plan" and told her they were going to say her hand was injured by accident in the door of the family's van. Barretto and Holloway told that version of events in interviews with authorities.
In another instance, the girl said strikes from the ax handle caused her legs to bleed and become infected. She said her uncle and his girlfriend used tweezers to pull green infected matter from the sores. The girl said her uncle injured her in other ways, such as kicking her head, biting her hands and choking her.
The couple had no explanations for any of the other injuries, court records said.
The girl said she told Holloway of the alleged abuse, but Holloway didn't do anything to stop Barreto or to help her. Authorities noted the girl made disclosures to a foster mother and school counselor that were consistent with what she told police in an interview.
Barreto and Holloway remain in the county jail with cash-only bonds set at $250,000 and $150,000, respectively.
The next court hearing for Barreto and Holloway is scheduled April 3.