Charges Bound Over in Child Abuse Case
CLEARFIELD – A child care provider accused of injuring a baby in her care had a hearing on Wednesday at Centralized Court at the Clearfield County Jail.
Laura Baldwin of Clearfield faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, endangering the welfare of children, and reckless endangerment.
The child’s mother testified and stated that on May 5, 2011, she dropped her 5 month old son and older daughter off at Baldwin’s. She stated that when she dropped her child off, there was nothing wrong with him and that he was buckled in his car seat.
The mother testified that she later received a call from Baldwin, who told her that her (the mother’s) child had dropped her son. She said Baldwin told her the boy was unresponsive. The mother said she left work and Baldwin’s. She said her son’s eyes had rolled back into his head and that his arm was limp. She said she asked Baldwin to go to the emergency room with her. She said her son was then airlifted to Pittsburgh, where he stayed for three to four days.
Cindy Hazel testified that on May 5, 2011 she was at a doctor’s appointment when she received call from Baldwin. She said she was told to stop by the Baldwin residence as there was something wrong with a baby. Hazel said she went, and that Baldwin “was not herself.” She said that later that day, Baldwin called her and asked her to tell Children, Youth and Family Services that she (Hazel) had been at Baldwin’s residence from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. She stated that while at Baldwin’s, she believed Baldwin wanted her to say she was there from 8-2, as Baldwin reportedly held up her hands, showing eight fingers. She indicated she was not comfortable with lying, and didn’t.
Hazel also testified that Baldwin told her later that summer she shook the child while playing with him. Hazel testified that she understood Baldwin meant the phrase in a playful manner.
“My client said she shook the child and you didn’t call the police,” asked defense attorney Chris Pentz.
“No. I took it that she was playing with the child,” replied Hazel.
Clearfield Borough Police Officer Dixon testified that on May 5, 2011, he was called to investigate a possible child abuse incident. He testified that Baldwin told him she believed a 3 year old had dropped the child. She said Baldwin told him she was making waffles and a bottle when she heard the baby cry. He said she said she figured the child was hungry and when she went out, she found the older child over the baby. He said she believed the baby was fine.
Dixon said she told him she went to feed the child and his eyes rolled back and milk came out of his mouth. He said she tried various things to try to get a response from the child. He said she told him she called her husband to check on the child, and that he reportedly told her there was something wrong with the child, and that’s when she called the child’s mother.
Dixon said initially, Baldwin said that Hazel was at the residence, but then said she might have been mistaken, she may have talked with her on the phone rather than the other woman being there. He said she also told him that she believed she was to blame for the child’s injuries due to unbuckling the boy while he was in his car seat. He said she also indicated she could not believe the other child could have picked up the baby.
Dixon also read from a report on the child’s injuries, in which a doctor stated the child had been a victim of abusive head trauma.
Under cross, Pentz asked Dixon if his client ever admitted to kicking, punching or shoving the child. Dixon indicated she did not. Pentz also asked Dixon if he knew, when he filed the charges, that Hazel believed the “shaking” comment was playful in nature. Dixon admitted he did not. He also asked Dixon if the officer was aware of any bruising on the child. Dixon indicated he was unaware of any bruising.
Under redirect, he was asked if Baldwin ever mentioned “shaking”, in a playful or non-playful way. Dixon said never.
During closing arguments, Pentz asked for the charges to be dismissed. Earlier, he had argued against the report being used that Dixon had read from. Magisterial District Judge Richard Ireland allowed the report. Pentz argued in closing that the report did not support shaken baby syndrome. He stated the report indicated it was notable there was no bruising. He argued there was not sufficient evidence at this level that a crime had been committed or that his client had committed it.
First Assistant District Attorney Beau Grove argued that the child had suffered significant internal head trauma. He stated that Baldwin had tried to cover it up, that she never told police about the shaking and that she had asked someone else to lie for her.
After hearing the testimony and arguments, Ireland bound all charges over to the next term of the Court of Common Pleas.