“Be prepared for no answer. Sometimes babies just die.” These are the words the detective said to me hours after Nash died. It was his closing statement to us as he walked out of the small hospital room that held my grief-stricken family. Our minds were still wheeling from the events that had played out hours before. The death of a grandchild, nephew, cousin, and son. I didn’t know then how important those words were going to become in my life…what role they would play in the choices I have made over these last two years.
Everything about the investigation and the way it was handled upsets me. We found out the cause of Nash’s death from the funeral director who read it off the death certificate a month after he died. We could have just received it in the mail but the funeral home director felt it should be told to us personally. The funeral home director!! Not from from a detective, or someone from the police department coming to our home to sit with us and discuss the case. WE called the detective, WE wanted answers. WE asked to see him. What does positional asphyxia mean? How did he die from this while in someone’s care? He informed us during that meeting that Nash’s case was closed. I was dumbfounded…closed? If it’s closed, how is this the first time we had even met with him? Was he planning on informing us at all? He explained that it was accidental and the babysitter felt awful. I started to cry. SHE felt awful!? I looked to Todd for some sort of answer but all I saw was red, anger, and frustration. He held my hand as he sternly told the detective how he felt. He asked if the detective had children. He said that he did. Todd asked if he would ever leave them where he couldn’t hear them. Would he not check on them for hours? Would he literally discard them in a room and check on them as he saw fit? The detective replied no, he wouldn’t. That he, in fact, checked on his babies frequently, even with a baby monitor in the room. I didn’t understand. If he felt this way, why would he not see that this was wrong?
Nash had a large scrape/bruise on the back of his head. My family went ballistic when they saw it at the hospital. It upset me because they kept pointing at it asking what the hell it was. I didn’t want to think about what it was at that point. Those thoughts would have sent me over the edge I was already dangling over. I just wanted to hold him and sing to him. We asked the detective about it, and he said it was most likely caused by CPR. I thought to myself, “Thank God.” I was relieved to know it wasn’t something else, something worse. Todd, on the other hand, wanted to know how he had come to this conclusion. The detective said that the babysitter told him that’s how she thought it happened. I felt Todd’s hand grip mine tightly, almost to the point where it was painful. Todd asked the detective if he had ever questioned the sitter after that day, and he said no. I thought Todd was going to start throwing things in the detective’s office. He started to shake but remained composed. The detective must have noticed his anger because he quickly added that he would be happy to send the pictures they took of his head to a woman who specializes in this at UofM. We both agreed that we wanted him to do it. To this day, we have never heard from the detective again, nor have we heard about any further investigation into what caused that mark. Can someone please tell me how a child can die at daycare under these circumstances and the parents are the only ones being punished!
I can’t tell you how important it is to a parent who has lost a child to have answers. The not knowing, the “what ifs” will slowly eat away at you until you can barely function in your everyday life. I go from sadness, to fear, to anger and frustration. If they had reached the same conclusion they did but after a thorough investigation, we would have so much more peace compared to what we have now. Did they not know how important getting these answers would be to us? “Be prepared for no answer. Sometimes babies just die.” His mind was made up just hours after Nash died. What I have come to learn not only from my situation, but also from similar situations of others, is that a baby’s death is not held to the same standard as the death of you or me would be. If an adult had died in that house, that day, I doubt the detective would not only fail to inform the family of the cause of death and that the case was closed, but would also not tell them how awful the responsible party felt and that it was an accident. It took seconds after meeting the detective to decide we would do all we could to to hold the daycare accountable. Nash died, he died. Let me repeat that again, he died!!! In a room by himself with no baby monitor, laying on his belly with well over the amount of children a daycare is regulated to have. All while the caregivers are downstairs with the other children posting recipes on Facebook.
I felt sad, frustrated, defeated. My baby died from absolute and unquestionable negligence, and because the sitter felt bad and because Nash was a baby, it was tossed aside. Nash wasn’t just a baby though, he was a human being! He was my son, and because of this daycare he is no longer here. Shouldn’t that matter? Does his life mean anything? Can a baby really die at daycare and nothing happens!?
Months later, when I went back to work, a patient asked me if I was pursuing the daycare legally. He was a lawyer, so I felt comfortable talking to him about it. I told him I didn’t understand my options. That the case was closed criminally. I didn’t even know what kind of lawyer I should call. I had never dealt with anything like this in my life. He explained that we could pursue them civilly. He gave me a name. He said, “If you decide to do this, this is the lawyer to call.” He explained that he only took big cases and may not even take our case, but if he did, I was in the best possible hands. He smiled and said, “Shelly, don’t tell him I sent you. I don’t want him to know how the other side feels when they are up against him.” He then winked and walked away. I looked down at the paper and read, Brian McKeen and Associates, Detroit MI.