Jay Meisel, Highlands Today, October 18, 2014
When 4-year-old Mercedes A. Blair arrived at a local hospital on Tuesday, it was quickly evident that she was severely injured, according to an arrest report released Friday.
Dr. Sally Smith, who is identified as being with a child protective team, determined that “Mercedes suffered from numerous bruises to her forehead, both ears, both shoulders, both arms, both legs, chest, back and abdomen. Mercedes suffered damage to her liver and kidneys. The bruising and damage to the organs was caused by blunt force trauma.
“Mercedes also suffered from a skull fracture to the crown of her head. The cause of the skull fracture was the result of a high force impact to the head on a broad flat surface. The impact to Mercedes’ head caused her to have brain bleeding and swelling. The entire right side of Mercedes’ brain was hemorrhaging, the report said.
And in addition to that, the report notes “the top of Mercedes’ right hand had a healing burn and the hand appeared to be fractured near the thumb. The burn appeared to be inflicted by another person by pouring a hot liquid onto the top of Mercedes’ hand.”
The man accused of being responsible for all those injuries, Ivan James Sanders, 28, 3533 County Road 17, was arrested by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Sanders showed no emotion when he appeared in court during his first appearance.
The chain of events leading to his arrest on the murder charge began when Sanders brought Mercedes to Highlands Regional Medical Center, authorities said. The girl was unresponsive and then transported by helicopter to All Children’s.
Sanders initially told authorities that Mercedes was playing on the steps outside the residence. He went inside to get water for her and when he returned she was unresponsive, authorities said.
At some point, Sanders also told authorities that he was caring for Mercedes while her mother worked and that he prepared breakfast, the arrest report said.
When Mercedes finished eating, she “tripped over a chair and struck her head on the floor,” Sanders told authorities, according to the report. “Later that morning, Ivan noticed that Mercedes had scratched herself on the stomach.”
During other interviews with law enforcement, Sanders said that he “playfully threw Mercedes onto the couch and onto a bed,” the report said. “Ivan stated that on the occasion that he threw Mercedes onto the bed, she bounced off of the bed and forcefully struck her head on the wall. Ivan also stated he pressed hard into Mercedes’ abdomen area in an attempt to assist her with having a bowel movement.”
As for the burn on the hand, Sanders said, that while he boiled water to wash dishes, Mercedes attempted to get a glass and knocked the pan on her, the report said.
The mother told authorities that she had dated Sanders for six months and had moved in with him at his residence about two weeks ago, the report said.
After moving in with Sanders, the mother began noticing “unexplained bruises on Mercedes,” the report said.
She also found out that when she was at work one day, Sanders spanked Mercedes’ buttocks to the point of causing bruises, the report said.
The report said the mother found Sanders’ explanation of the burn suspicious as she never saw him boil water to wash dishes, the report said.