'Unfathomable': Germantown mom sentenced to 25 years for setting 8-year-old son on fire

A Montgomery County woman will spend the next 25 years in prison after she was convicted of lighting her 8-year-old son on fire in May 2020. 

Kimberly Tyler, 31, of Germantown, was sentenced on Friday to 30 years in prison suspended all but 25 years to serve and five years of supervised probation upon release.

Tyler was convicted by a jury on Dec. 7, 2023, on multiple charges including first-degree child abuse and conspiracy to commit neglect of a minor following a four-day trial.

The brutal attack

According to prosecutors, in May 2020, Tyler got upset with her son for eating cereal and making a mess so as a punishment, she took the boy into the kitchen, poured rubbing alcohol on his hand and lit it on fire. The fire spread out of control, eventually engulfing the boy from his torso to his head. 

Tyler’s wife and co-defendant, Chareese Snorgrass-Tyler, and her younger sister were both in the home at the time of the incident. Tyler and Snorgrass-Tyler threw the victim in the shower after he caught on fire.  

The boy suffered third-degree "full thickness" burns on both sides of his upper arms, chest, and neck, and second and first-degree burns to his face and other areas of his upper body. In total, 25% of his body surface was burned. Tyler also sustained injuries from the flames. 

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Rather than take her child to the hospital, Tyler called her parents Kimball Tyler and Lisa Jones, who also became co-defendants for their role in the abuse. 

Tyler and her father went to the store to buy bandages and burn cream, and back at the apartment, Kimball Tyler wrapped the 8-year-old up in gauze. 

Weeks of neglect

The boy was then sent to live with his grandparents in Howard County, Maryland where he stayed for about two weeks with no medical attention. 

In one video call Kimball Tyler made to the boy’s mom, investigators say the victim appeared heavily bandaged and in debilitating pain, grimacing as he struggled to stand up on his own.

Kimball Tyler eventually took the boy back to his mother’s apartment and urged her to take him to the hospital but she refused. Finally, on May 30, 2020, Kimball Tyler picked his grandson up from the apartment and drove him to Children’s National Medical Center. 

When the child got to the hospital, staff reported that he was screaming and crying in pain. Doctors found that his wounds were so deeply infected, puss was dripping out of them and the smell was so foul an infectious disease team was brought in to assess them. They say his scars were so thick and shrunken in some areas that limited his joint mobility.

Hospital staff alerted Montgomery County Police about the suspected abuse and an investigation began.

When police interviewed Tyler, she claimed that she was frying chicken and left it unattended when the little boy came over and spilled the hot grease on himself. She even went so far as to draw a picture for the police to show how small the kitchen is and how this could be plausible. 

Police didn't buy the story and Tyler, her wife and father were all charged. 

"This was among the worst we have seen when it comes to child abuse cases. The level of harm caused by someone in the ultimate position of trust, the child’s mother, is unfathomable. Our hearts are with the young victim and those now entrusted with his care," said State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

Since May 30, 2020, the victim has undergone approximately 20 surgeries to excise dead tissue and graft skin, and will likely remain scarred for the rest of his life. Prosecutors say at some points, the doctors were operating on him twice a week and he had to undergo physical therapy and psychiatric treatment. 

Past abuse revealed

In addition to burning her child, investigators discovered that Tyler had been investigated by Child Welfare Services in 2019 for physical abuse and they learned that there were instances where Tyler would purposely humiliate the victim in front of the other children and at school. 

The victim suffered from Hirschsprung’s disease, which caused him to have trouble controlling his bowel movements at times. Prosecutors say at times when the boy accidentally soiled himself, Tyler and her wife would discipline him by dressing him in his sister’s clothes and calling him girl’s names. When the boy had an accident before school, the women would not allow him to shower and would make him go to school in soiled clothes.

Investigators say they would also send the victim to school in diapers that were too tight on him and horrifyingly, Tyler would also discipline the victim by giving him unnecessary enemas. On one occasion, the victim tried to remove the enema himself and received a spanking. 

As a punishment, Tyler would also cut out patches of his hair and then make fun of him in front of the other children. 

The victim and his siblings also reported that they were always hungry and at the hospital, medical staff noted malnutrition as one of the victim’s conditions.

Kimball Tyler testified against his daughter at trial. He pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and received a probation before judgment sentence.

Chareese Snorgrass-Tyler pleaded guilty to neglect of a minor. She was sentenced to five years in prison suspended all but six months to serve and five years of supervised probation upon release.

"Our hearts are with the young victim and those now entrusted with his care. We thank the judge for fashioning an appropriate sentence and Assistant State’s Attorneys Sheila Bagheri and John Grochowski for their work on this highly emotional and upsetting case," McCarthy said.