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LCPD: Doctor arrested after allegedly failing to report child abuse

LCPD: Doctor arrested after allegedly failing to report child abuse
Courtesy Dona Ana County Detention Center

POSTED: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 2:54pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 9:02am

Doctor's alleged failure to report abuse ultimately resulted in death of 7-month old

A Las Cruces doctor and operator of a private school has been arrested after LCPD detectives suspect she failed to report child abuse and neglect that ultimately resulted in the death of 7-month-old Shania Smith on July 9th.

Ann Mercer, 69, who oversees the Mercer School at 2801 E. Missouri Ave., has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse or child neglect.

As part of their investigation into the death of 7-month-old Shania Smith, Las Cruces Police detectives interviewed Mercer who oversees the Mercer School where Annette Smith’s two older daughters attended classes. Smith’s youngest daughter, Shania, died after Smith allegedly covered the infant in several layers of blankets in order to avoid hearing her cry.

Detectives learned that one of Smith’s older daughter’s, age 13, told Mercer prior to Shania’s death that her mother was refusing to feed Shania, left the toddler in dirty diapers and placed stacks of blankets on top of her for long periods of time.

Annette Smith’s daughter also allegedly told Mercer before the toddler's death that her mother would frequently hit her, and her 12-year-old sister.

Detectives learned that even though Mercer was told about Anneette Smith's alleged abuse, she never reported the allegations to law enforcement or to the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Mercer was arrested Tuesday, July 22, and booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center with bond set at $1,000.

New Mexico State Statute 32A-4-3 requires medical professionals and school officials, among others, to immediately report child abuse and child neglect to law enforcement.

Annette Smith, 33, was initially charged with one first-degree felony count of intentional child abuse resulting in death and one count of tampering with evidence. She has since been indicted on six additional counts of child abuse and one count of negligent child abuse. Her children – ages 18-months, 12 and 13 – are in the custody of CYFD.

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Dr. Mercer is a first-rate doctor and a very, very responsible and caring person. We know CPS doesn't follow through on lots of complaints and deaths DO result. Sorry anyone is choosing to blame Dr. Mercer. . She also has a heavy workload. Who's most important -- a possible cancer case, or what might be seen as an untrue complaint? You would not believe the number of phone calls here in Las Cruces among her supporters.

Get volunteers to help with paper work, but report the children who died really only had the last person that was to have taken care of them or protect them. It is not always the mother. You are correct in that so many cases are not investigated. But that report gives that child hope. I feel for the DR. but I also feel for the child that is no longer with us.

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