Elijah Harris

Hammond couple charged in toddler's beating death

July 31, 2007 (WLS) -- A Northwest Indiana couple is charged in connection with the beating death of a toddler.

Twenty-three-month-old Elijah Harris died last Thursday after suffering traumatic brain injuries at a home in Hammond.  The child's mother, 29-year-old Angela Burgher , and the boy's stepfather, Dennis Burgher, each face four counts of child neglect.  Investigators say the toddler also had scalding burns on his body.

The mother and stepfather remained in custody Tuesday night.


CROWN POINT | Angela Burgher unfolded a crinkled piece of yellow paper Wednesday and read her apology for the circumstances leading up to her son's death.

The East Chicago woman's son, Elijah Harris, died in July 2007 of severe trauma to the head. He would have celebrated his second birthday a month later.

"I'm sorry to my children for not making better choices and decisions for them," Burgher said Wednesday in a shaky voice.

Burgher was sentenced Wednesday to an agreed term of 10 years in prison for felony child neglect that led to Elijah's death.

The 21-year-old woman, who also has another child, pleaded guilty in April in return for Lake County prosecutors dropping five other felony charges that included battery and neglect of a dependent.

Burgher admitted to watching her husband, Dennis Burgher, strike her son, Lake Criminal Court records show. She said she also noticed blisters and burns on Elijah's body but didn't do anything to get him help.

Angela Burgher also admitted she heard a "thump" while getting ready for work and found Elijah's body crumpled on the basement floor with Dennis Burgher standing nearby.

Dennis Burgher told her Elijah fell down the stairs, court records state. Angela Burgher left for work as usual.

Emergency responders to the Burghers' home said they found bruises to Elijah's forehead, lesions on both sides of his neck and untreated second-degree burns to his buttocks and groin. He wasn't breathing at the time, police said.

Both Burgher and her now estranged husband, Dennis, were charged with multiple felonies relating to Elijah's death.

Dennis Burgher, who was Elijah's stepfather, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony neglect of a dependent.

He admitted to failing to seek medical attention for Elijah after he saw the little boy's injuries. Dennis Burgher did not admit to any abuse or violence.


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