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Woman accused of child abuse was on probation

FARMINGTON – A woman accused of causing the death of an 8-month old baby had her first appearance in St. Francois County court today.

However, this was not 26-year-old Rebecca Siliven’s first appearance in court for child abuse.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she was convicted in 2003 of child abuse. She was placed on five years of supervised probation and ordered by a federal judge to take anger-management and parenting classes. The probation limited her contact with children and banned her from working in the child-care industry.

The Springfield News Leader reported in 2002 that Siliven assaulted a 2-year-old girl at Fort Leonard Wood by kicking and stomping on the girls’ legs and striking her in the face.

Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Ray read the charges to Siliven, who is being held in the county jail on $500,000 bond. Her only words were spoken to indicate she did understand the charge of abuse of a child against her.

The charge alleges she knowingly inflicted cruel and inhuman punishment by kicking the infant, EmmaLee Westhoff in the head.

She is being represented by the public defender’s office. A preliminary hearing has been set for 2 p.m. Aug. 23.

Emmalee’s father, Chris Westhoff of Bonne Terre, told the Post-Dispatch he feared EmmaLee’s life was in jeopardy if she remained with her mother and Siliven. He said he filed several complaints with the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services and tried unsuccessfully to have EmmaLee removed from his estranged wife, Tamra Westhoff.

Chris Westhoff said he wants Gov. Matt Blunt to investigate the state’s handling of the complaints.

According to a probable cause statement filed in associate circuit court, the Farmington Fire Department was dispatched to an emergency medical call involving an 8-month-old infant at an apartment building on Carleton Street Wednesday morning.

Firefighters administered CPR until emergency medical personnel arrived. The infant was immediately transported to the Mineral Area Regional Medical Center where further attempts to revive the infant were made to no avail.

Dr. Russ Deideker, a pathologist at the hospital, performed an autopsy on the baby on Thursday and discovered a skull fracture. He determined the cause of death was due to impact trauma to the head.

The mother of the infant, Tamra Westhoff, and Siliven, her roommate, were both interviewed at the police station.

According to police reports, Siliven admitted striking the baby in the head with the heel of her workboots at about 8 p.m. Tuesday.

She reportedly told police the baby was laying on the floor of her bedroom when she kicked her. She said she did it because the infant would not stop crying.

The prosecutor said she has used this same charge before on a person who is alleged to have caused the death of a baby.

Horn said she does not have to prove that the person intended to cause serious injury or death. She only has to prove that the death was caused by the cruel and inhuman punishment that was inflicted.

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