August 21, 2007
Parents Abuse Infant: Putnam Couple Get Jail After Baby Suffers Fractured Bones
By Brian Evans, The Lima News, Ohio
Aug. 21--OTTAWA -- Sometimes, little infant "Jane Doe" cried for 24 to 48 hours and when her parents tried to move her or pick her up, she screamed violently for hours.
Physicians later discovered the 3-month-old girl suffered 10 fractures to bones throughout her body.
The Putnam County Prosecutor's Office last week concluded what many consider one of the worst infant-abuse cases in the county in recent years.
Heather Hitchcock, 20, of Continental, was sentenced in Putnam County Common Pleas Court on Friday to three years in prison for her involvement in the abuse of her daughter.
Assistant Prosecutor Todd Schroeder said the girl's father, Brian Earles Jr., 22, of Continental, was previously sentenced to four years in prison. Prosecutors said Earles was largely responsible for inflicting the injuries.
Schroeder said the couple were convicted for child endangering, a felony of the third degree. Court records refer to the girl as "Jane Doe" and officials refused to release her name. She is in foster care in the area, where she has not suffered any additional fractures.
Schroeder said the couple lived together at their parents' houses in Continental. The girl was born April 26, 2006, and abuse was first discovered Aug. 9, 2006.
Hitchcock told prosecutors she found the girl crying loudly at about 7 a.m. that day and her arm was swelling. By noon, the girl was still crying, at times screaming, her arm was worse and Hitchcock's mother advised them to take the girl to the hospital.
Schroeder said the mother took the girl to a local ambulatory care center at 6 p.m., and from there she was sent to St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima.
Physicians at St. Rita's found the girl had a bone fracture in her upper arm. The X-ray also revealed two additional fractures in her right forearm, both in healing stages.
From there, the girl was flown by helicopter to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo where she underwent emergency surgery to save her arm. Her parents, Schroeder said, stayed behind.
The surgery went well, Schroeder said, however physicians at St. Vincent's suspected child abuse and ordered a full body scan.
The scan revealed seven additional fractures -- in her ribs, legs, arms and collarbone -- in different stages of healing.
Physicians said the girl was healthy and had no medical conditions that would make her susceptible to such injuries.
The girl was immediately removed from the parents' custody and they were charged. Prosecutors said both parents were unemployed and addicted to a narcotic pain medication.
"Both parents denied responsibility and knowledge," Schroeder said. "Ultimately, the mother admitted the father shook the child violently over a long period of time because she was crying. When he shook her, it went from crying to screaming violently. ... My hope is, if anyone experiences or witnesses a similar situation, with another family, they'll take immediate steps to report it, to prevent something like this from happening again."
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