Three Arrested For Child Abuse/Endangerment and Drug Charges; One-Year-Old Girl Taken to Denver Children’s Hospital
A one-year-old girl was taken to Denver Children's Hospital late Tuesday for severe trauma allegedly caused by a woman who at one time burned her face with a hot pan a few weeks ago, shook her violently last weekend, and on Tuesday placed a blanket over her head to stop her from crying, according to a Casper police affidavit.
"'I don't remember exactly how I held the blanket over (the girl's) mouth but apparently I smothered her,'" Stephanie Shirts, 25, told two detectives.
The child is reported to be in stable condition.
Shirts and her boyfriend Jason Cathcart, 34, and the girl's mother, Bobbi Humphreys, 24, made their initial appearances in Natrona County Circuit Court on Thursday.
Shirts was charged with one count of aggravated child abuse punishable by up to 25 years in prison, four counts of child abuse with each count punishable by up to five years in prison, and four counts of child endangerment with methamphetamine, with each count punishable by up to five years in prison.
Her bond was set at $100,000.
Humphreys was charged with four counts of child endangerment with methamphetamine, and one felony count of child endangerment punishable by up to five years in prison.
Her bond was set at $15,000.
Cathcart was charged with four counts of child endangerment with methamphetamine, one felony count of possession of a controlled substance punishable by up to seven years in prison, and one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance punishable by up to one year in jail.
His bond was set at $15,000.
Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen said Thursday the defendants are set to appear in court probably next week for their preliminary hearings where a prosecutor presents probable cause that a crime was committed and they committed it.
If a judge agrees, they will be bound over to state district court for trial.
"They're presumed innocent," Blonigen said. "These are only charges and we have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. But there's questions of actions both by parents as well as caretakers and it raises some very serious issues."
The case started about 7 p.m. Tuesday when a police officer responded to a call at the Wyoming Medical Center where medical personnel told him about a child brought to the emergency room with a significant head injury who was unresponsive, had hematomas in the head, and a large scabbed area to the left rear area of the head.
Other officers arrived at the hospital, one of whom observed the girl on a bed in the emergency room.
The girl was unresponsive, intubated and on a ventilator, and had an intravenous drip attached to her right arm with a bandage from hand to armpit to keep it secured.
The girl was sedated and dressed only in a diaper.
The officer also observed burns to the face and head, hematomas in various stages of healing over her face, abdomen, pelvic area and lower extremities.
The girl had not been rolled over to check for back injuries, because she was being stabilized for transport by Life Flight.
Officers went to the house in the 1700 block of South Fairdale Avenue, where the three suspects lived, but those in the house, including Shirts' mother, initially refused to open the door.
After officers were able to enter, they checked on other children in the house.
The children did not appear to have any injuries, and they were taken into protective custody.
During a search warrants executed at the residence, officers -- with the help of a K9 -- found and collected as evidence drug paraphernalia, professionally packaged bags of synthetic marijuana called "spice," numerous plastic bags with possible methamphetamine, 1 milligram glass ampules, and a soft velvety red and white blanket.
According to the affidavit, Cathcart told police he owned the house and lived upstairs with Shirts, the injured girl and another child.
Humphreys and her two children moved in the house two or three months ago, and she was renting the basement.
He was unemployed, and Humphreys and Shirts were fired or quit working at the Best Western Ramkota several weeks ago.
He, Shirts and Humphreys all told police they had smoked methamphetamine Tuesday morning.
Later that day, Cathcart and Shirts found a note from Humphreys saying she had put the girl down for a nap and went to Walmart.
Shirts later went downstairs to the bedroom where the girl was standing in her play pen with her hands up in the "wanting up" pose.
Cathcart said Shirts picked up the girl, set her on the floor of the downstairs living room and changed her diaper.
The girl was crying and screaming and had a blanket she pulled over her head while being changed.
Shirts then placed her hand or arm over the blanket covering the girl's face.
The girl quit crying and her face turned blue.
Shirts then did mouth to mouth resuscitation and started pushing on the girl's chest.
The girl started breathing again, but it wasn't normal, according to the affidavit
Humphreys arrived at the residence about 6:30 p.m. and asked Shirts to take them to the hospital.
Shirts corroborated Cathcart's account, according to the affidavit.
Police also asked the defendants about the bruises on the girl.
Humphreys said she started noticing bruising on the girl several weeks earlier, but that it was because her daughter was beginning to walk.
About a week later, Humphreys woke up one morning and noticed large blisters on the girl's head, ear and face.
She asked Shirts, "what the f--- did you do to my baby?" Shirts responded the girl must have pulled a pot of macaroni and cheese from the stove and hit her head with it.
Humphreys told police she should have moved away then, but didn't have anywhere to go.
Shirts initially told an officer about the girl pulling the pot on herself.
After the officer told Shirts she didn't believe that story, Shirts said she took a hot saucepan and rolled the side of it across the girl's forehead, but didn't think the pan was that hot.
When the blisters appeared the next day, Shirts held the girl down and scrubbed the blisters with the astringent witch hazel.
Shirts also told police that last Friday, Humphreys left the girl in her care.
The girl was crying.
Using a doll provided by police, Shirts showed how she picked up the girl and held her upside down by her upper legs and shook her.
Shirts left the girl, later returned, picked up the girl by her armpits and shook her back and forth, according to the affidavit.
K2 Radio reporter Kevin Koile contributed to this story.