RACINE — Kathleen Lyman was sentenced Friday to one year of probation for felony child abuse, for abusing and biting her 2-year-old foster child.
Lyman, 49, on Aug. 17 entered a no-contest plea to charges of felony child abuse, misdemeanor neglecting a child and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen on Friday ordered a withheld sentence on all three counts and sentenced Lyman to one year of probation, with the stipulation that during that time she cannot care for minor children unless approved by the Department of Corrections.
A doctor examined Lyman’s foster child in July 2015 and reported finding, among other injuries, crescent-shape bruising on the child’s arms and abdomen that looked like bite marks. The toddler also had bruises on her face and one of her ears.
In an interview with police, Lyman initially tried to blame the bite marks on the child’s older brothers, but authorities said the marks appeared to be from an adult. Lyman eventually admitted to handling the child roughly and biting her.
‘I’m not a monster’
Lyman addressed the court on Friday, saying that although it was no excuse, that at the time of the abuse she was grieving the loss of her other foster children who had recently been removed from her home at her request. She said she also was dealing with a verbally abusive and unsupportive husband, who was having an affair. In addition, Lyman said, she was suffering from anxiety, anger and loneliness.
“I’m not a monster,” Lyman said. “I realize now that I lost control and I flipped out.”
She said she’s made several changes since then, including getting a divorce and seeking help for her anger and anxiety issues.
The prosecution and defense both agreed that Lyman will face a significant consequence outside the criminal justice system: She will be denied the option of becoming a mother, something that she’s always wanted; she will now not be permitted to foster or adopt children and she is likely too old to have children of her own.
The probation sentence was in line with recommendations from both the prosecution and defense.
Prosecutor Carolyn Delery said the defendant’s actions in 2015 were unreasonable and at the very least inexcusable, but that Lyman had been out on bail for three years with no violations.
The victim is now in a safe home, Delery said, and doesn’t seem to have any lasting mental or emotional issues stemming from the abuse.
Delery recommended that in addition to probation, Lyman get counseling, as she obviously was not able to handle stress.
Defense attorney John Ward admitted that his client was overwhelmed at the time of the incident, but has since sought treatment.
At the time, Lyman was caring for more children than she was licensed to have and some of them exhibited challenging behaviors.
“She’s embarrassed to be here,” Ward said.
Nielsen said it seemed to him that Lyman was someone trying to do good who took on more than she could handle.
He said that some people might believe that probation was letting Lyman off easy, but those people would be wrong.
“Those people don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.
Lyman has been stripped of her reputation, as well as her First and 14th amendment rights, allowing her to vote, until her probation is served and will lose her second amendment rights, to possess firearms, permanently. During probation she will lose much of her autonomy and privacy, he said.
“You tried at something, you made a noble effort and you failed,” Nielsen said of Lyman’s work as a foster parent.
“I’m not a monster. I realize now that I lost control and I flipped out.” Kathleen Lyman, former foster mother