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News Child abuse victim continues healing

Kirsten and her eight-month-old sister Autumn were are able to spend their first Christmas together. Because of the attack, Kirsten has to wear a helmet to protect the portion of her head doctors had to operate on.Hart returns to court in February

After months of fighting for her life, Kirsten Hart is almost back to normal. “She is doing a lot better,” said Kirsten’s mother, Jennifer Hart. “She is walking on her own and saying more words each day and she is eating great on her own. The doctors are saying that she is a miracle.”

Kirsten is the 28-month-old victim of a brutal attack which occurred in Dillsboro on Aug. 31. She was air lifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville in critical condition, after sustaining serious injuries.

Kirsten’s injuries were a result of alleged attacks that occurred over a three-day period while in the care of her stepgrandmother, Lisa Plank Hart.

According Lisa Hart’s testimony, she admitted to police that Kirsten had become ill in the car and began to cry, at which point Lisa Hart struck the child in the face, blackening her eye. Lisa Hart also admitted to police that two days after the initial attack, Kirsten had been playing with her cereal around 8:30 a.m. during breakfast ,which caused Lisa Hart to “snap” at which point she began beating the 28-month-old until she became unresponsive. Kirsten laid unconscious until Lisa Hart’s husband, Kirsten’s biological grandfather, came home from work and called 9-1-1 to report the attack.

Among other visible injuries to her face and body, Kirsten suffered from a hematoma and extensive damage to the left side of her brain. She has had to undergo surgery to have the left bone flap of her skull removed to reduce the swelling of her brain.

Kirsten remained in ICU in critical condition until she was transported to Atlanta. Kirsten, who lives in Warner Robins, Ga, was released from Mission Hospital after nearly a month of treatment and transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to continue the recovery process closer to her family, and was allowed to go home a few weeks later.

Although her progress has been tremendous, she still suffers from some negative side effects of the abuse. “She still has a few things that she will do because of the injuries. For example, she fusses a lot for no reason, which she hadn’t ever done before and she will take her diaper off all the time. Just little things that the doctors attribute to the injuries,” said Hart. “But I do see a lot of progress from her. Like I have said before, she isn’t the same little girl as before, but I still love her just the same.”

According to Hart, Kirsten’s family lives each day with complete gratitude, and cherishes every moment they get to spend with their little miracle. “She isn’t able to do a whole lot of activities, but we do take her to the park as often as possible,” said Hart. She loves to slide down the slide with me and sit in my lap while we swing.”

Lisa Plank Hart in court Lisa Hart’s bond was increased to $125,000 from the original $75,000 after prosecutors were able to establish probable cause in the case. Attorney John Barrett was appointed to represent her but did not return phone calls to comment on behalf of his client.

Lisa Hart appeared in Jackson County Superior court again on Wednesday, Dec. 14, but the case was continued until Feb. 15. Lisa Hart is facing two felony counts of child abuse, and one count felony assault with serious bodily injury. If convicted, Lisa Hart faces 4-8 years in prison as a result of a plea deal with the District Attorney’s office.

Kirsten’s mother is not happy with the plea deal and believes that her daughter’s attacker should be subject to a harsher punishment. “She deserves life, in my opinion,” said Jennifer Hart. “I would love to go to Jackson County to protest. I would just like to be there to hear her confession in person, but since I’m having to go to and from Atlanta for Kirsten’s follow up appointments, I just can’t afford it at this time,” she said.

With the holidays right around the corner, Kirsten’s entire family is thankful to have their little miracle with them. “We are all just so thankful to have Kirsten here with us. I don’t think we could have asked for anything else this Christmas,” said Hart. “I think Kirsten is looking forward to all the toys that she is going to get. We are already having a hard time keeping her from opening the presents that are under the tree!”

Kirsten’s family and friends have created a facebook page “Prayers for Kirsten” for people to offer words of encouragement to Kirsten as she continues the long, uncertain road to recovery. Fund raising events and donation information can also be found on the facebook page or by contacting Rebecca Payne at (478)442-0606.


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