Police records show what appears to be a yearlong gap in the investigation of a 4-month-old baby who officials said suffered serious injuries while in the custody of her foster parents.
In addition to the delay in the Tucson Police Department’s investigation, which began in March 2016, the Arizona Department of Child Safety didn’t make a public notification of the incident for more than a year.
The baby, who was taken to a hospital in critical condition, showed signs of severe head trauma that doctors said was not accidental.
Despite the doctor’s statements, DCS didn’t determine the near-fatal incident was the result of abuse until four months ago, when it substantiated the reports against both foster parents, according to state records.
“State law forbids DCS from releasing information on a child’s death, or near death, until it is proven that a child died or nearly died because of abuse, abandonment or neglect by a parent, guardian or caregiver,” said Darren DaRonco, a DCS spokesman.
Since TPD’s investigation wasn’t closed until March 2017, DCS was unable to make a public notification of the incident until the agency completed its own investigation.
Although DCS documents show the agency determined in March that the near-fatal incident was a result of abuse, the incident wasn’t made public until April 27.
Last March, Tucson police responded to Banner-University Medical Center for a child-abuse call and learned the baby had been admitted to Tucson Medical Center two days before with flu-like symptoms and a double ear infection, according to TPD’s investigative report.
While at TMC, the baby suffered a stroke and was transferred to Banner. The next day, testing confirmed she had retinal hemorrhaging, bruising to her brain and a fractured right arm, the report said.
Doctors told police the head injury could have occurred up to 48 hours before the baby was taken to the hospital and the fracture was about 2 weeks old, according to the records.
Because no one was arrested in connection with the case, the Star is not naming any of the involved parties.
Employees at the foster family’s day care said the baby had been out sick for about three weeks and the day of the incident was her first day back. That morning, the foster mother had called the day care to say the baby didn’t seem like herself and was “a little off,” the records show.
When the baby was first dropped off at day care, she was making a “weird gasping sound” but her foster father said she was OK and it was just a side effect of the medication she was on for the respiratory illness, the records show.
Later in the morning, a transportation worker arrived to take the baby for a scheduled visit with her birth father and when she returned two hours later, she looked “horrible, like there was no life in her,” one employee told police.
The day care contacted the baby’s foster father, who arrived nearly two hours later to take her to the hospital. “He didn’t seem to be very concerned,” one day-care employee told police.
Police also spoke to an employee of Casa de Los Niños who supervised the baby’s visit with her biological father the day she was taken to the hospital and confirmed he didn’t hurt the baby that day or on any other visits, the report shows.
The police report shows interviews with the Casa employee, three day-care workers, the foster mother — who all denied hurting the baby — and other children who lived at the home.
Police never interviewed the foster father, with one detective noting in March 2016 that he had tried to call the man several times and left messages that went unreturned. On Feb. 24, 2017, a detective noted again that the foster father was unable to be reached.
In January, there was a note in the report that the case was still open “with further information to follow.”
In February, detectives spoke to a second doctor who treated the baby and confirmed the injuries could be the result of shaking, but there could be other causes.
“He described (the injury) as only occurring in child abuse, high speed car accidents, and crush injuries, like a bookshelf falling over on an infant,” the records show.
At the end of the investigation, detectives were unable to determine when the injury took place or who caused it, a detective wrote in the report.
The case was presented to the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute.
When asked about the year-long gap in the investigation, Sgt. Kimberly Bay, a police spokeswoman, said the county Attorney Office’s child-abuse protocol includes investigative components by outside agencies, including DCS and the Office of Child Welfare Investigations.
“Our first concern was the health and safety of this child and all others involved in this incident,” Bay said, adding that the foster parents relinquished their state licenses shortly after the incident.
After the baby was released from the hospital, she was removed from her foster parent’s custody and placed with another family. Her current medical condition is unclear.
DCS records show that a second foster baby in the home was moved to a new placement, but the couple’s other children were determined to be safe in their parent’s care.
The baby was removed from her birth parents in October 2015, after DCS received reports of neglect.