ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – A St. George woman was charged with four counts of aggravated child abuse, a third-degree felony after she allegedly caused several fractures in two of her young stepsons, ages two and four.

The Division of Family Services began its investigation July 18 after Pena’s stepchildren had been recently treated for injuries at Dixie Regional Medical Center.

The four-year-old was found to have a broken scapular bone, a broken humerus bone, and a broken bone in his pelvis area, and the 2-year-old was found to have a broken femur, according to charging documents.

“The children’s parents were interviewed, at separate times, during the course of this investigation. There were inconsistent statements, made by the parents, as to how these injuries occurred to the children,” the charging documents state.

Pena revealed during questioning that she lost her temper on at least two separate occasions and admitted to being responsible for breaking two of the children’s four broken bones, including breaking the two-year-old’s femur while changing his diaper, according to investigators.

Pena also admitted she was responsible for breaking the 4-year-old’s humerus bone, describing “grabbing the child’s arms, raising them above his head, and then escorting him to his room,” the report said.

“Pena informed detectives she hadn’t told her husband about what she had done and maintained he had nothing to do with the injuries to his boys,” the charging documents state.

Pena denied knowing how the 4-year-old sustained the injuries to his scapular and pelvic areas.

ABC4’s Katie Karalis sat down with experts from the Washington County Children’s Justice Center (WCCJC), where staff says they served more than 350 child abuse survivors last year.

Kristy Pike, director of WCCJC, said staff have received an increase in physical abuse cases starting in June.

“It’s not always clear just looking at a child whether they’re being abused or not,” Pike said.

In fact, national child abuse statistics show that for every reported case, 2 more go unreported.

Experts say to watch out for inappropriate or aggressive family dynamics and kids who are afraid to go home or go to school, are on “high alert,” or have unexplained bruising.

“The best thing to do to keep kids safe is to follow the mandatory reporting laws in Utah,” Pike said. “If you have reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected, you are required by law to report that.”

Pena has been booked into Washington County jail on a $10,000 bail.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect contact the DCFS 24/7 hotline: 855-323-3237. For more information, visit dcfs.utah.gov.

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