Thorndike mom accused of intentionally burning child dies, charges dropped
Belfast — The Waldo County District Attorney's Office has dropped charges against a local woman who was accused of intentionally burning her six-year-old child's hand on a wood stove after the woman died last month.
A clerk at the district attorney's office confirmed Wednesday morning, June 4, that 30-year-old Michele Dunworth passed away on Mother's Day and that the state has since dropped the charges she faced in connection with the alleged incident at a Thorndike residence in January.
According to previously published reports, Dunworth was arrested on charges of domestic violence assault and endangering the welfare of a child Tuesday night, Jan. 21. The arrest followed an investigation that Waldo County Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton said was prompted when an elementary school teacher noticed the child wearing a bandage on his hand when he came to school.
Trafton said when the child's teacher asked him what happened to his hand, he stated that his mother had burned it on the wood stove at their home. The School Resource Officer in Regional School Unit 3, Nicholas Oettinger, investigated the case after learning of what the boy told his teacher, Trafton said.
When Oettinger observed the boy's injury, Trafton said the officer described the burn as "several inches long" and it appeared to have been a second- or third-degree burn that was in the process of healing.
As the investigation proceeded, Trafton said police learned that the boy's younger sibling had accidentally burned their hand on the stove and when Dunworth came into the room, she pressed the six-year-old's hand against the stove surface as well.
"She held his hand onto the wood stove so he would know what it felt like," Trafton said at the time of Dunworth's arrest.
After completing the investigation, Trafton said Oettinger obtained an arrest warrant for Dunworth and the matter was referred to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.