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Toddler scalded during bath may testify on her own behalf

Indaysha Chambers will arrive at Buffalo City Court Tuesday with her toddler daughter to tell a judge what happened to the little girl.

But the mother is also determined to let her daughter speak out on her own behalf.

Leah Shan' Tae Lee, who is almost 3, told a Buffalo News reporter on Monday about the second-degree scalding injuries that covered 16 percent of her body.

"I got burned. It was sad," Leah said.

The blistering and open sores have healed, but scars remain from the hot water that scalded the child's back, neck and head from a bath her stepmother allegedly gave the child last July.

"My back felt red. Red is hot," the child added.

Leah spent several days at Women & Children's Hospital before being discharged to the care of her mother and maternal grandmother.

Natajua D. Lee, Leah's 19-year-old stepmother, has been charged with second-degree assault and acting in a manner injurious to a child. A felony hearing on the charges is set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in front of City Court Judge Barbara Johnson-Lee.

"I want my daughter to speak for herself. She's been speaking since she was 15 months old. She told me what happened to her and it wasn't like her stepmother said," Chambers said.

Chambers said Lee gave her two different stories of how Leah ended up scalded.

"First she said she left my daughter for a moment in the tub to grab a towel out of the other room and that Leah turned on the water and burned herself," Chambers said. "Then she later told me she was washing Leah's hair when it happened. Leah's father was supposedly working during the time this occurred."

After a lengthy review, Sex Offense Squad Detective Jeffrey T. Banes, who investigates crimes against children, issued the charges and Lee was arrested on Feb. 16.

"This took long enough and I was told to be patient. I'm really happy there has finally been an arrest," Chambers said.

Efforts to determine if Lee, who is being detained at the Erie County Holding Center, has an attorney were unsuccessful because courts and the Erie County District Attorney's Office were closed for the Presidents Day holiday.

She says there were previous signs of mistreatment to her daughter and that she complained to authorities, but no action was taken.

"I had called police twice before when my daughter came home from her father's home on Virginia Street with bruises and scratch marks on her face and body," the mother said. "After she was burned, I went to Erie County Family Court and he no longer has visitation rights."

Besides the physical scarring, Leah has suffered emotional trauma, Chambers said.

"She wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. They call it night terrors and it's from her being burned," Chambers said. "Physically she is healing very well, but the scars look like a big birthmark."

And there are other problems.

When it comes to baths, Leah will only take one if her 4-year-old brother, Tre' Vonne, is already in the tub.

"She won't let me wash her hair. That's because she told me that was when she was burned. The stepmother was giving her a shampoo and poured the hot water over her head," Chambers said. "I've been told that the investigation determined there was no way water from the bathtub was hot enough to burn my child. This was intentional."

Chambers says she will soon be moving her family to Atlanta.

"I'm going to give my daughter a new life," the mother said.

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