A babysitter from Ionia County, which lies halfway between Grand Rapids and Lansing, has been accused of throwing an infant that she was tasked with caring for, causing the baby severe injuries in the process.
According to police records, officers from the Ionia Police Department were called to a home on Jackson street on August 4th, by the mother of 8-month-old baby Thomas, Rachel Pierson. Pierson said that she had been contacted by the babysitter, who told her that her son had fallen and hit his head while sitting on the hardwood floor in the family’s living room. When asked if he would be okay, the babysitter allegedly said that she didn’t believe so. Pierson told her to call 911 immediately, which she did, and Thomas was transported to DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
But once the doctors were able to conduct an examination, they revealed that the injuries were consistent with child abuse, not a fall. Baby Thomas had sustained three skull fractures, broken ribs, and a fractured leg. Because Thomas had been in the care of the babysitter, Autumn Skuse, at the time, she became an automatic suspect in the possible abuse case.
However, because the broken ribs were discovered to be an older injury, the Piersons were also under investigation. Due to the controversy surrounding the older rib injury, Thomas’ mother and father had their other child removed by CPS and placed with a family member. CPS also opened an investigation into the family.
When interviewed by police, Skuse said that the baby had fallen back from a sitting position and hit his head on the floor. However, some time later Skuse allegedly admitted to police that she had thrown the infant after she ‘snapped’. In the wake of Skuse’s admission, the family’s older son was released back into their custody and allowed to return home with them.
Although baby Thomas was released from the hospital and went home with his family after doctors said that he appeared to be recovering well, he was back in hospital the very next day after passing out inexplicably. Further CT scans revealed a brain bleed, and he was started on seizure medication.
Skuse was arrested and is now charged with First Degree Child Abuse, which under Michigan law is a very serious felony punishable by up to life in prison. She was arraigned in the Ionia County District Court, and granted a $50,000 bond.
According to Pierson, Skuse contacted her recently and told her that she had been abused herself as a child, and that she had just ‘snapped’ and dropped Thomas. However, she also said that he was meant to land on a pillow, but didn’t.
As attorneys who have dealt with countless abuse cases over the years, and parents who understand how difficult it can be to soothe a fussy or difficult baby, we would like to remind caregivers and parents that they are not alone. Struggling with caring for a child does not make you a bad person, it makes you perfectly normal. However, in order to avoid tragic situations like this in the future, we encourage all parents and caregivers to have someone they can call in the event of an ’emotional emergency.’
For those of you who don’t have family or friends you can rely on for relief or advice during a difficult time, here are some numbers for hotlines that can help:
The Parent Helpline: 778.782.3548
The National Parent Helpline: 1-855-427-2736