Christy Sims before the acid incident. 
Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Closing argument in Henry case of woman disfigured by chemical burn

After three days of testimony, a Henry County jury will now decide if a Sandy Springs man intentionally doused a McDonough woman with drain cleaner, permanently disfiguring her.

Andrew Fordham is on trial for two counts of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated assault - charges that carry up to 20 years each.

The central question of the case: Did Fordham deliberately throw industrial-strength drain cleaner on Christy Sims, a divorced mother of two or was it a horrible accident? The April 28, 2013 incident severely disfigured Sims’ face, arms and chest.

The jury heard three days of testimony beginning with Tuesday’s emotional account from Sims, who had been in a relationship with Fordham for about six years at the time of the incident.

She testified she has had more than a dozen surgeries so far and that the acid burned down to her nerves. “I lived behind a veil for a whole year. I couldn’t go out in public or anything … It’s very painful.”

Fordham was at Sims’ home the day of the incident trying to unclog a bathroom drain when he asked her to bring him a towel. When she got to the bathroom, she testified that Fordham was slipping around on the floor in water and suddenly lunged at her with a bowl of liquid that covered her face, chest and arms. Fordham later testified it was a coffee mug.

Sims testified that Fordham told her 911 operators told him not to put any water on her because she “would ignite.” In the 911 tapes, an operator and a poison control expert are heard telling Fordham to put her in the shower.

In addition to hearing testimony from Sims and Fordham, jurors heard from emergency medical technicians, Grady Hospital burn nurses who tended to Sims, an expert in hazardous chemicals as well as Sims’ mother and brother. They also heard the 911 tape.

Defense attorney Christopher Chapman hammered on the fact that Sims as well as first-responders and the burn nurses, said the incident was an accident.

“The chief source of the evidence is Ms Sims,” Chapman said. “She said over and over and over to doctors, nurses, firemen that it was an accident.” He noted that the word “accidental” appeared 21 times in her medical records.

“It was only later when she knew the extent of her injuries, the extend of her medical bills, only then did it become ‘Mr. Fordham did this intentionally’.”

Henry Assistant District Attorney Sandi Rivers said paramedics and EMTs who arrived at the scene that Sunday afternoon were initially concerned about the scatter patterns and the damage done by the Clean Shot drain opener. They also noted Sims’ injuries were extreme while Fordham’s were minor.

Rivers also noted that the initial report received by first responders was of a slip and fall and they didn’t see any evidence of a slip and fall. Rivers also reminded the jury that the Grady charge nurse, who has dealt with many burn cases, testified that injuries like Sims’ are often “intentional.”

“Ms. Sims presumed he was innocent. She thought he loved her,” Rivers told the jury in her closing statement. “But his presumption of innocence was already slipping away by the facts of the case.”

“It’s a difficult thing for her to come to the realization that someone she cared for had thrown something on her.”

The jury will resume deliberation Friday at 9 a.m.

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