JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The mother of a 4-year-old girl and her boyfriend made their first appearances in court Thursday on child abuse and neglect charges, but the woman's relatives, who were also there, say she is both innocent and a victim.
Tameka Williams, 27, and Bacarius Burt, 37, were arrested Wednesday, accused of tying up Williams' daughter and gagging her for wetting her pants.
Williams' family says she would never do this to her child, and they claim her boyfriend abuses her, too.
The girl was treated at Wolfson Children's Hospital and is now in the care of a relative.
"It hurts me, it hurts me in my heart, but me knowing her, I know there's no way she'd tie her kids up," Williams' mother, Anna Jenkins, said.
Williams' family says she was basically a prisoner in her own home and watched the abuse, but never took part in it. They say she lived in fear and was told not to tell police or family about what was going on.
"He kept Tameka's children away from everybody," said Angela Jones, Williams' sister. "We haven't seen these kids in a long time. I haven't seen Tameka in over a year. I would go to see her and he wouldn't let us in her home. You know, women, there's a fearful thing for women."
A friend who wanted to remain anonymous described what she said she saw happen to the 4-year-old girl.
"She had marks everywhere, marks everywhere, on her face, around her neck, on her body, her legs," she said. "He really, really messed her up."
Williams' family says the girl was abused. The Department of Children and Families is investigating to see if her siblings were also abused. They say Williams did report what was going on to a relative, and that woman called police.
"She did reach out for help, especially she could, and the only thing she could do at that time was to text, and that's what she did," family advocate Linda Dayson said.
Both Williams and Burt remain in jail, and it's up to investigators now to find out what really happened. But in the meantime, Williams' family is standing by her side.
"I know that she would never harm her kids, and she just got with the wrong guy and he took over her," Jenkins said.
No one from Burt's family was at his court appearance, nor could any relatives be found for comment.
The other children taken from the home are with a relative.
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