Investigator: Couple used scalding water to discipline their children

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – A couple arrested for child abuse and domestic violence used scalding water to discipline the children under their care, critically injuring one, sources close to the investigation said.

Derrick Defoe, 29, and Amanda Marie Reyer, 22, are charged with aggravated child abuse and first degree domestic violence. A source close to the investigation said the couple confessed to using hot water to discipline the children.

It started on Monday when Limestone County investigators received a call from Huntsville Hospital, alerting them to a burned child. The call said Reyer brought her 2-year-old daughter in with second and third degree burns covering more than 80 percent of her body. The child was flown to Birmingham, where she was listed in serious condition, but was later flown to Shriner’s Burn Hospital in Cincinnati, because her condition had worsened to critical.

Investigators said Reyer told hospital staff the child fell into a bathtub full of scalding water. When law enforcement arrived at the couple’s residence on Tillman Mill Road in Limestone County, they found Reyer’s boyfriend, Derrick Defoe, in the back yard. Defoe claimed he was alone, but deputies soon found a 5-year-old child and an infant inside the residence. They say the 5-year-old child was naked and crying and also suffered second degree and third degree burns.

Deputies said the 5-year-old child was also taken to Birmingham for treatment. He remains at the hospital in Birmingham and was last reported to be in stable condition, according to the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Mike Blakely said after the DHR call, investigators went to the home and ran hot water for the bathtub and determined it was 158 degrees.

The couple was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. Reyer briefly spoke to the media, stating that she couldn’t accompany her child to Birmingham in a helicopter because she exceeded the weight limit set for passengers.

Investigators continue to look closely at the couple for other signs of abuse.