2 accused of setting little girl on fire

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Two people are accused of setting a little girl on fire last year.

Police said the little girl was critically burned in a room at a motel off Highway 6. Court documents show it wasn't until the next day the child was finally taken to a hospital. The alleged abuse happened in April of last year and it took police nearly a year of investigation before charges were filed.

"She seemed like a pretty nice lady," neighbor James Johnson said.

He was home when police surrounded the duplex and arrested his neighbor, Veronica Deneen Harris.

"I had no idea that was going on," Johnson said.

Harris is charged with serious bodily injury to a child by omission. She appeared before a judge Tuesday.

Her cousin, Christen Deuante Rogers, is charged with injury to a child. He also appeared in court Tuesday.

Police said Harris, her 4-year-old niece, Rogers and several other children were in a Mission Bend area motel last April. Court records read the 4-year-told police she "was strapped into a chair by her "aunt Ronni" and was only wearing a diaper."

Police said that "while she was strapped into the seat Chris held a lighter to complainant's stomach and caught complainant's body on fire."

The little girl told police she was strapped into the car seat because she was being "bad."

According to police, Harris didn't take her niece to a hospital until the next day. She suffered burns over 30 to 40 percent of her body. Police said the pair told them it was all an accident and it took investigators until now to provide evidence to the contrary and charges being filed. 

Police said Harris and Rogers claimed alcohol was used to treat the little girl's mosquito bites and wind carried a flame from a nearby cigarette lighter onto the child's body, which caused the fire.

Both are still in jail and Children's Protective Services officials took custody of all the children.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2