Pediatric trauma specialist outlines child’s injury in abuse case

2014-02-12T18:19:00Z 2014-02-12T22:08:24Z Pediatric trauma specialist outlines child’s injury in abuse caseLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent
February 12, 2014 6:19 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | A pediatric trauma specialist from the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital testified Wednesday about the head injuries suffered by a 13-month-old child in the trial of a Hammond woman charged with neglect of a dependent.

Joanna Latrice Stokes, 28, is accused of causing physical injuries to her child that required the child to be taken by ambulance from The Community Hospital in Munster to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital in the early morning hours of Jan. 6, 2011.

When the child was admitted to the Comer Children’s Hospital ICU, Kelley Staley, M.D., was on the hospital’s Child Protective Services team and was called to consult with the ICU staff and physicians about possible child abuse.

Staley testified that the child had bleeding on both sides of the brain, called a bilateral subdural hematoma. The bleeding and a small amount of swelling of the brain were found first in a CT scan taken at Community Hospital when the child was in the emergency room, she said.

The child also was crying and irritable at times alternating with lethargy, Staley said. These symptoms in this young a patient indicate “an altered mental state” caused by the head injuries, she said.

In addition, the child had two seizures on Jan. 8, 2011, while on anti-seizure medication.

“As a head trauma patient, (the child) was put on medications to prevent seizures. The break-through seizure is a direct result of the injuries,” Staley said.

Other injuries the child sustained included severe bruises to the face, including around the eyes, inside and outside the ears and horizontal bruise lines in the child’s temple area, she said.

“The child could not have done this (by falling). You would need a forceful impact to get bleeding in the face,” the physician said. “(The child’s) skull had to be impacted at least once.”

Hammond Police Detective Mark Biller, a member of the department’s Special Victims Unit, also testified about his team’s initial investigation of the incident that allegedly took place in Stokes’ Conkey Street apartment on Jan. 5, 2011.

An audio-video taped conversation Biller and Hammond Detective Sgt. Christopher Matonovich conducted with Stokes at the Hammond police station on Jan. 6, 2011, was shown in court.

She waived her Miranda rights, including the right to have an attorney present during the interview, the tape showed.

Stokes said during that interview that she brought the child home from a routine visit to a Gary pediatrician about 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2011, and put the child down for a nap in the crib. When she went to check on the child three hours later, the child had a nose bleed and was “hot and sweating a lot.”

The child started vomiting and had “red marks on his face. I thought (the child) was having an allergic reaction to the immunizations. I talked to my momma and she said to take (the child) to the hospital.”

Stokes denied injuring her child.

“I never hit (the child). Nothing fell from the sky to hit (the child). I don’t want anything more to do with this,” Stokes said before putting on her coat to leave.

Stokes’ jury trial in Judge Samuel Cappas’ Lake Criminal Court continues Thursday.

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