updated 7/5/2007 9:01:56 PM ET 2007-07-06T01:01:56

A man accused of biting off the lip and ear of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter pleaded not guilty Thursday and was ordered held without bail.

Bryan James, 34, was charged with assault and battery upon a child causing substantial bodily injuries. Police said the attack left the girl so mutilated doctors could not fully repair the damage.

The child’s mother, Jessica Silveria, 26, pleaded not guilty to permitting substantial injuries to a child under 14 and intimidation of a witness. She was also ordered held without bail.

The girl lost the upper part of her lip and her ear was so mutilated that surgery could not return it to its natural state. The child also suffered other human bites on her body, New Bedford police Capt. Richard Spirlet said.

“She’s small, brown hair, brown eyes — great smile,” the child’s father, Eric Offley, said outside the courthouse. “You know, now that’s taken away from her.”

Police believe the biting attacks began in January and continued until April. New Bedford police began investigating in mid-May after the girl was taken to Children’s Hospital in Boston. The girl and her older brother have been taken into state custody.

The state Department of Social Services said it began investigating abuse allegations on Jan. 5, and repeatedly tried to contact and locate the girl’s family.

When the agency managed to contact the mother in March on one of several unannounced visits, her daughter was not in the home, and she also wasn’t there during subsequent visits, DSS said in a statement.

In April, the agency asked a judge for an order to gain temporary custody of the girl and her older brother. A judge put the children in state care on May 3, DSS said.

Prosecutors plan to ask at a hearing next week that James and Silveria be held without bail for up to 90 days, said Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter’s office.

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