LUBBOCK, TX – Amid new concerns about child abuse, the Go Blue Lubbock campaign, held every April as a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, stresses the importance of protecting children and preventing child abuse on the South Plains.
With added pressures brought on by health concerns, job insecurity, financial strain, and other effects of the coronavirus crisis, children are at greater risk as parents and caregivers struggle to cope.
In 2019, there were 3,095 confirmed cases of child abuse in the Lubbock Region.
Fifteen children lost their lives in abuse or neglect related fatalities in this area.
The Lubbock area continues to have one of the highest rates of confirmed abuse or neglect in the state with an average of three confirmed cases in Lubbock County every day.
The public is invited to participate in the campaign by wearing blue on Go Blue Fridays throughout the month of April and sharing and tagging with the hashtag #GoBlueLubbock.
Man to stand trial for Child Abuse after
HUDSONVILLE, MI – The father accused of manslaughter in his son’s death was ordered Friday to stand trial for two counts of child abuse.
In a Hudsonville courtroom, Judge Judy Mulder dismissed a third count – child abuse in the presence of another child — that Timothy Koets faced.
“(Koets’) daughter was not present when (Samuel Koets) was left on the porch,” Mulder said in court Friday afternoon. “So the acts the defendant did to commit the child abuse in this case — the act of leaving his child alone on the porch unsupervised — was not done in the present of a child. It’s very unfortunate that his daughter had to find her brother alone in the pool in the way she did, but the act of child abuse …. was not done with the other child present so I am not able to find that there’s probably cause to bind over on count 3.”
Mulder did, however, bound Tim Koets over on two child abuse counts, one of which is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
“The facts presented that supported this at the time of the preliminary examination were that Samuel was left on a porch unattended, that the defendant did not assure that his wife was awake to care for Samuel,” said Mulder from the bench.
“There was some testimony that he awoke her. There was also some competing testimony that he texted his daughter during the course of the time he was gone indicating that he thought his wife was sleeping. I’m paraphrasing… but that’s how those texts read. There was also testimony that Samuel Koets functioned as an 18-month-old, that he was a nonverbal child and that he was attracted to water. So … a reasonable jury listening to those facts could find that this was a reckless act that caused a serious injury to his son, Samuel. So, therefore I’m going to bind it over on count 2 (felony child abuse in the second degree).”
Sam drowned after climbing into the backyard pool at the family’s home near Hudsonville. Authorities say his father, a professor at Grand Rapids Community College, left him unattended when he went to work on March 28, 2019. When one of his daughters texted him that Sam was in the icy pool, he allegedly texted back, “would you make sure the freak is OK?”
Koets and his wife Michelle Koets told “Inside Edition” in an interview that aired earlier this week that he woke his wife up before he left for work but she fell back asleep.
“It is not a reckless act for one parent to leave a child in the care of another parent,” Koets’ attorney argued Friday before his client was bound over. “He woke his wife up. He thought she was awake.”
In the “Inside Edition” interview, the Koetses rejected the notion that Tim Koets was negligent or uncaring. But investigators told News 8 that Sam Koets was also living in “disturbing” conditions before the drowning.
Outside the courtroom Friday, Koets’ attorney said while he knew Michelle Koets and a daughter had been contacted by “Inside Edition” and might do an interview, he did not know beforehand that Tim Koets would participate in the story.
“Had a discussion with my client and that will not be occurring again,” defense attorney David Kallman said.
Also Friday, both Tim and Michelle Koets were arraigned on charges that they kept filling their son’s Ritalin prescription for months after he died. Authorities say they were taking the drugs themselves.
Recalled Sleepers Linked To Infant Deaths Are Still Being Used in Daycare Centers
Earlier this year, Fischer-Price issued a recall of nearly five million Rock ‘n Play sleepers after the popular product was linked to at least 30 infant deaths. Not long after, Kids II recalled 700,000 of its own inclined sleepers due to similar concerns.
Several months later, one mom was shocked to find that these dangerous sleepers are still being used in some daycare centers, which could be putting their kids at risk.
Sarah Landis, a mom from Philadelphia, told Consumer Reports that in June, she came to her one-year-old son’s daycare and discovered that a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was in the infant facility room. Landis told her husband, Adam Garber, who works in product safety. Garber gave the daycare a call to see if they were aware of the recall.
“Our daycare provider, who cares deeply about the kids, was really confused,” says Garber. “She said she thought there had only been a warning about the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper and that as long as the product was properly used, and babies were buckled in, it would be fine.”
Garber informed the daycare director that a full recall had been issued, something that the director says they were never informed about the extent of the recall and so they believed they were not putting children in danger by keeping theirs. William Wallace, the manager of home and safety policy for Consumer Reports, says that this can be common if companies give mixed messaging about a recall.
“Recalls don’t work well unless people get a clear and consistent message. And they especially don’t work well if manufacturers and the government fail to fully warn people about the risks of a product,” Wallace explained.
Fortunately, in this case, no infants were harmed as a result of the sleeper but considering the popularity of these products, it’s hard to imagine that there aren’t still daycare centers that are unknowingly using a product that has been proven to be dangerous.
What can you do if you are a parent who is unsure if your kid’s daycare is using one of these items? Garber says the most effective thing you can do is reach out.
“One of the things we’re telling folks is to just go in and ask what the center’s plan is to check for and remove recalled products—and then ask about specific products,” Garber says.
Ben Hoffman, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatric’s Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention’s executive committee, agrees, adding that the safest thing for parents is to ensure that no inclined sleepers are being used.
“I would encourage parents to talk to day care providers and make sure their babies are put to sleep in a safe way, and not in a recalled product—but ideally not in any inclined sleeper,” Hoffman says.
Waynesboro woman did drugs prior to baby being found dead
WAYNESBORO, VA – The case of a Waynesboro woman whose baby was found dead last year concluded Wednesday with a conviction.
Christian P. Haynes, 19, is facing the possibility of 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in Waynesboro Circuit Court to a felony charge of child abuse.
Zayden Haynes, just 7 months old, was found dead March 3, 2018, after his mother neglected to check on him for 15 hours, according to Waynesboro assistant prosecutor Elysse Stolpe.
The baby was placed in a crib with an adult blanket, an adult pillow and had a bottle propped up onto his mouth when Haynes last saw him the night before at 11 p.m., Stolpe said.
The next day at 11 a.m., Haynes heard the baby crying but opted to let him “cry it out, even though she hadn’t checked on him for about 12 hours,” according to Stolpe.
Three hours later, Haynes, 18 years old at the time, woke up shortly after 2 p.m. and posted a selfie online. Five minutes after that a 911 call was placed when the baby was found unresponsive.
Stolpe said Haynes began smoking meth three days prior to the boy’s death, which kept her awake for days. The prosecutor said Haynes was tired and “coming down off that high” when she failed to properly care for her child.
A search of Haynes’ residence revealed there was methamphetamine and marijuana in the home. A smoking device was found near the child’s crib and another one was discovered next to his playpen in another room, Stolpe said. Haynes also admitted to sometimes smoking meth inside a closet in the baby’s room.
Stolpe said a drug screen done at the home by an Augusta County Child Protective Services employee showed Haynes had meth and marijuana in her system.
“This underscores that drugs aren’t just a victimless crime,” Stolpe said. “A child is dead because his mother was too busy getting high and then sleeping it off.”
Stolpe said the Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office considered a more serious homicide charge, but said an autopsy was inconclusive in determining if the baby suffocated to death. “Sudden unexplained infant death associated with unsafe bedding” was listed as the cause of death, according to Stolpe.
Following her guilty plea, Haynes, who has no prior criminal record, was allowed to remain free on bond.
Father charged with capital murder after
stabbing toddler in Lewisville, police say
DALLAS, TX – A father accused of slamming his toddler son on the sidewalk and stabbing him in a deadly attack has been charged with capital murder, Lewisville police said.
Blair Ness, 27, was released from the hospital Tuesday and booked into the Lewisville city jail after the attack that killed his son, 16-month-old Ashton Ness, Sunday in a courtyard at Oak Forest Apartments in Lewisville. Bail is set at $1.5 million.
As Ness, who was shot by a neighbor trying to stop the attack, was being handcuffed Sunday, he asked police to contact his mother and girlfriend. He told officers, “I know everyone’s mad, I’m mad. I killed my son,” according to an affidavit for his arrest.
A forensic investigator found stab wounds “all over” the boy’s head and body, police records say.
Police said evidence indicates that Ness’ attack on the toddler began inside the apartment he shared with his son and girlfriend, who was at work when the boy was killed. Officers found a large blood stain on the carpet in the master bedroom, a blood-stained folding knife and skull fragments near the bedroom door, the affidavit states. The apartment was smoky and smelled of marijuana, police said.
A trail of blood led outside to the scene of the attack, where officers saw several bloody kitchen knives in the grass next to a pool of blood.
When police interviewed the boy’s mother and Ness’s girlfriend, Alexandra Murphy, she said she couldn’t think of any reason why Ness would want to harm their son, the affidavit said. He had been reading the Bible a lot and they had been attending church lately, she told police. When she left the apartment Sunday to go to work, Ness was feeding their son.
In a statement, Ness’s family asked to be left alone to mourn Ashton.
“The shock of this vicious act will forever affect anyone that is close to this horror that happened on August 19th. We thank you for all the support, space and kindness during this time. We love you Ashton and we will always remember your beautiful smile and laughter,” the statement read.
The family’s statement said Ness “left this earth sometime in the last few weeks as he opened a door to allow demons to enter into his body.”
Ness did not have a criminal history in Dallas, Denton, Collin or Tarrant counties, according to court records.
In 2013, he entered a guilty plea in New Mexico on charges of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and kidnapping of a victim younger than 18. He pleaded guilty but was placed on deferred adjudication probation, court records indicate. The charges were dismissed in 2018 when he completed the probation program.
Ness was arrested March 23, 2013, after an overnight standoff with a SWAT team in Los Lunas, N.M., according to KOAT-TV. Police were called to his home after a woman told dispatchers she had been sexually assaulted, and Ness refused to come out for six hours until police fired pepper spray inside, the station reported.
It is unclear whether Ness has an attorney yet.
Just days before the attack, Ness posted a picture on Facebook of the young family and expressed his devotion to them and Jesus.
“The start of something beautiful!” he wrote. “I love my family, man do we have a strong bond, let’s all stand strong in jesus christ cause it’s so much better than magic.”
Ness was treated for a hand injury, likely from the knife used in the attack, and a gunshot wound to the leg, police said. Toxicology tests are pending.
Friends will hold a public candlelight vigil Thursday for 16-month-old Ashton Ness. The event will be at 7:30 p.m. at Wayne Ferguson Plaza on Church Street in Lewisville.
Family set up a GoFundMe campaign to help Ashton’s mother with funeral expenses.
A description for the fundraiser said Ashton “lit up a room when he entered it,” and had “the cutest dimples you ever saw.”
The fundraiser had surpassed its goal of $15,000 on Tuesday.
Several neighbors at the sprawling Oak Forest Apartments complex, along State Highway 121 Business just west of Interstate 35E, saw and heard Sunday’s attack in the courtyard.
Neighbors say Ashton’s father came out of his apartment ranting and raving as he carried a child in his arms who wasn’t moving.
Nine frantic neighbors, including the girlfriend of the neighbor who shot at the father, called 911 during the attack, according to recordings released by the city. Each told dispatchers there was a man stabbing his son in the apartment courtyard.
One man told the dispatcher: “They slammed the little kid on the ground. They’re stabbing their baby out here in the middle…”
“They’re stabbing their baby?” the dispatcher asked.
“They’re stabbing the baby right now in the middle of the complex, right now,” he said.
Another caller told a dispatcher, “There’s blood everywhere.”
“I think the dad killed him,” she said. The woman then told the dispatcher she heard two or three gunshots.
“Shots just went off,” she said.
Neither the police nor Child Protective Services had been previously called to the boy’s home in Lewisville, Capt. Jesse Hunter said at the scene Sunday.