Editor’s note: The following content contains material that includes descriptions of child abuse and may not be suitable for all audiences.

After three days in court and around two hours of deliberating over a Carter County child abuse case, the jury found Elizabeth Hart guilty of two counts of child abuse and one count of child neglect.  
Elizabeth Hart’s sentence could be up to 14 years in jail. Elizabeth Hart’s now ex-husband, Douglas Hart Jr., pled guilty to child abuse charges previously.
The trial began almost one year after the incident on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. On Tuesday, the prosecution, District 20 Attorney Craig Ladd and Assistant District Attorney Melissa Handke, called eight witnesses to the stand, including three of Elizabeth Hart’s children and her sister.  
In her testimony, Elizabeth Hart’s sister, Destiny Cox, stated that on the night of Aug. 9, 2018 her sister sent her a text reading “come get me, please hurry.”
After retrieving Elizabeth Hart and her three biological children from their Dickson residence, Cox notified the sheriff’s department of a 1-year-old child that had been beaten so bad that he couldn’t breath. This was confirmed by a recording of the 911 call.
“This right here has been the worst we have ever seen,” Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant told The Ardmoreite shortly after the child was rescued from the home. “It’s very disheartening, as a father myself. It has been very difficult for everyone that has worked on this. No child deserves this. This is unacceptable.”
Three of the children that had been living in the residence during the time of the incident testified to seeing both the 1-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl being abused by Douglas Hart Jr. on a daily basis.
One of the eight children living in the residence said he witnessed Douglas Hart Jr. repeatedly beat the 1-year-old, pausing in between swings to ask “does that hurt?”
A 7-year-old girl said she witnessed Douglas Hart Jr. holding the child against a wall and choking him. “He always got hurt for nothing,” the 7-year-old said.
The 7-year-old said she also witnessed Douglas Hart Jr. spank the 3-year-old girl with a paddle so hard that it broke into two pieces.
When Dickson Chief of Police David Boes arrived on scene Aug. 9, 2018, he said the 1-year-old child’s breathing was weak and labored, which could be observed on the dash and body cam footage presented to the jury during the trial.
On Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, the prosecution’s final witness testified. Ryan Brown said he works in the emergency department at The Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City and examined the 1-year-old child after he was flown there by paramedics on the day of the incident.
Brown said the child’s condition was critical when he arrived and his oxygen was low. According to Brown’s testimony, there were indications that the child had been choked, tied up by his feet, burned by cigarettes and beaten.
After further examination, medical examiners found that the 1-year-old had a fractured skull, a dislocated and fractured elbow, and two fractures in his forearm that Brown said were probably at least two weeks old.
“These injuries are not something he would’ve done to himself,” Brown said. The location of the fracture in the child’s skull indicated that he had been forced to the ground, he said.
When Elizabeth Hart took the stand as defense attorney Jason May’s first witness, she testified that she had not known how badly the child was hurt. Elizabeth Hart said she had gone shopping the day of the incident and believed that Douglas Hart Jr. had injured the 1-year-old while she was gone.
When she came home that day, she found the child lying on the ground next to a pile of vomit, Elizabeth Hart said.
The prosecution claimed that Elizabeth Hart contradicted herself by stating that she did not know how badly the child was hurt and by also reacting to the situation in a manner that caused her sister to call law enforcement and tell them “her husband was beating their kids to where they weren’t breathing.”
Elizabeth Hart said she first met Douglas Hart Jr. in January 2016. The two married in Feb. 2017 and moved to Dickson in May of that year. During her testimony, Elizabeth Hart said Douglas Hart Jr. had never displayed any signs that he might be abusive prior to summer 2017.
“He held me down a lot… and left bruises, that’s how it started,” Elizabeth Hart said, referring to the first time she had seen Douglas Hart Jr. have an outburst of anger during that summer.
In March 2018, Elizabeth Hart said Douglas Hart Jr. physically attacked her in her car, head butting her, choking her and pulling her hair. This was the first and only time she reported a domestic abuse incident to the Department of Human Services, according to multiple witnesses.
Elizabeth Hart said DHS reached out to Douglas Hart Jr. after her report and no further action was taken. “They did the absolute worst thing you could do for a victim of abuse,” Jason May, defense attorney, said in his closing statement.
“He told me if I reported him again he would kill me,” Elizabeth Hart said.
In a previous article, it was inaccurately stated that Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer Marie O’Dellsaid Douglas Hart Jr. had been involved in a previous child abuse incident.
During his questioning of Odell, May pointed out that public court records show Douglas Hart Jr. was involved in an unrelated domestic abuse incident with another partner. However, O’Dellsaid she had no prior knowledge of this incident during her testimony.
Had she known of the conditions within the home, O’Dellsaid she would not have recommended closure of the case. When the incident occurred on Aug. 9, multiple witnesses testified that the residence was filthy.
Dog and cat feces, trash and clothes littered the floor; and one of the children said the bed bugs, fleas and ticks were so bad that they had to move rooms. In her testimony, Elizabeth Hart agreed that there was negligence in keeping the home clean.
Kimberly Hill, the DHS child welfare worker who was assigned to the case, said she made contact with Elizabeth Hart a few times after she reported the incident in March, 2018. However, Hill said Elizabeth Hart never mentioned child abuse.
In her testimony, Hill said Elizabeth and Douglas Hart had told her that they were going to go to counseling. The last contact DHS made with the family was on June 11, 2018 and all appeared to be well.
Later in her testimony, Elizabeth Hart said she stayed with Douglas Hart Jr. because she felt like she needed to protect the two children, which she did not have custody of. “He would get mad and say that he didn’t want them,” Hart said.
However, two of the children who testified said Elizabeth Hart failed to take any action when they came to her about the abuse. “She would just watch him being hurt,” an 8-year-old boy said. “She would see it and hear it and not do anything.”
In his closing statement, Ladd said that Elizabeth Hart could have done more to protect the children— a statement the jury agreed with based on their verdict.
“You let that go on in your house? Anyone with a smidgen of moral decency would get involved,” Ladd said. “And guess what? The law requires you to get involved. She’s got a responsibility and she didn’t do it.”