Grandmother accused of burning, abusing child


Investigators with the Sampson County Sheriff's Office arrested Veletta Wilkins Edwards, 55, of 167 Seven Eagles Lane Wednesday.

A neighbor said Edwards called herself a religious leader who had turned her mobile home into a church with a cult-like following.

"I think they called it Smiling Courtyard, and they had a couple members up there always dressed in white saying that white was symbol of purity," explained Shane Jacobs.

Detectives said their investigation began December 29 when the Department of Social Services got a tip about possible mistreatment. Investigators took two children - aged 8 and 9 - to the Sampson Regional Medical Center for evaluation. Deputies say the 8-year-old had scars all over the majority of her body and numerous burns that were infected due to lack of medical treatment.

The sheriff's office says through interviews with the children, it was discovered that Edwards allegedly locked the 8-year-old in a room, without a bed or food, for several days at a time with only a bucket as a toilet. Tools were allegedly used to inflict physical injury, and the child was sometimes forced to sit in scalding water as punishment.

The 8-old-child was also allegedly subjected to sexual abuse.

The abuse was hidden from authorities because the children were homeschooled.

Deputies said the older of the two children was not subjected to any physical harm. The 8-year-old child has been receiving medical and psychological treatment since being removed from the home.

Edwards is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual offense with a child, crimes against nature, child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

She was placed in the Sampson County Detention Center under a $410,000 bond.

Deputies said more charges may be filed.

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