Babysitting boyfriend charged in girl's death
by Ken Haggerty
Injuries that led to the death of a two year old girl have led to felony charges of First Degree Assault and Malicious Punishment of a Child against Justin David Lake; charges that may be increased as results of an autopsy come in.
The injuries are alleged to have occurred at the downstairs of the duplex Lake was renting at 302 Cedar Street North, just south of Highway 19 about two blocks east of the Cannon Falls Community Center. Neighbors say Lake had lived at the rental for only about three months.
According to the criminal complaint filed with the charges, Cannon Falls police responded to a 911 call from Lake on Wednesday, July 1 about 8:05 p.m. Lake told Officer Mitch Althoff that he was babysitting for his girlfriend, Tabitha Hanson, when the girl, who would have turned three July 15, fell off the bed. Lake said Hanson did not live there, but was visiting.
Althoff and Emergency Medical Technician Carlyn Schramske, who responded to the scene from her nearby residence, found the girl on a couch, unconscious with a large bump on her forehead. A Mayo One Helicopter was called in to transport the child for critical care medical attention.
At the scene, Lake told Althoff he was in the living room, while the girl was jumping on a bed in a bedroom. Lake says he heard a noise, went into the bedroom and found the girl face down on the floor, reaching up to him. He said the child appeared dizzy and went unconscious when he picked her up.
Lake says he called the girl's mother, Hanson, who was shopping at Wal-Mart in Red Wing, but got no response. He then called the Cannon Falls Hospital who advised him to call 911, which he did.
Hanson had left the residence about an hour earlier according to Lake to go to Wal-Mart. Lake added that Hanson had given the girl a bath and dressed her prior to leaving. He also added that the child had marks and bruises from earlier falls. Lake told Althoff the girl always falls and injures herself.
The girl reached the Cannon Falls Medical Center at approximately 8:35 p.m. Dr. Greig Glover examined the child and found a bruise approximately 2 by 3 centimeters on her forehead.
Glover told Althoff that it was his opinion the injuries were not consistent with a single fall. The child was stabilized and transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. At the hospital, Hanson talked with Althoff while Cannon Falls Police Department Assistant Chief Richard Wisniewski arrived and spoke with Lake. Hanson told Althoff she has noticed some behavioral problems in the girl when around Lake and that it was her belief that the girl did not like Lake because he disciplines her. Hanson added that Lake had requested her to allow the child to stay with him while she went to Wal-Mart because he thought it would be good for them to spend time together and to get the girl to warm up to him.
Hanson had a receipt for Wal-Mart for 7:58 p.m. that evening that she showed to Althoff.
Hanson also told Althoff the biological father of the girl was Justin Walker, of Wisconsin.
Wisniewski also spoke with Hanson at the hospital. Althoff observed that Lake appeared nervous and could not stand still while waiting for Hanson to finish speaking with Wisniewski.
After finishing speaking with the police at the Cannon Falls Medical Center, the couple told the officers that they were planning to drive to Rochester to be with the child. But officers noted that they arrived three hours later. Questioned on the delay, Hanson told Wisniewski she needed time to go home and gather up two outfits for the girl and to get gas money and gas for the trip.
The 911 dispatch officer told Althoff that Lake began giving a long explanation about the girl falling off the bed and about the marks on her head being from earlier in the day. Lake also told Schramske the bump on her head was from a fall earlier in the day.
At St. Mary's, the girl was taken into surgery to relieve pressure on the brain from internal bleeding. Preliminary reports from doctors said she had a severe abusive traumatic head injury. They diagnosed a minimally displaced parietal bone fracture. Medical professionals at Mayo Clinic informed Wisniewski that the severe injuries to the child's head and brain were not consistent with a short fall off a bed. They said the injuries are consistent with the child being forcibly shoved into a door frame or being hit in the head with a hard object similar to a baseball bat.
The girl died in the hospital July 5. The investigation is the first homicide in Cannon Falls since the eerily similar death of Jessica Swanson in 1995. Lake was arrested and charged and booked into the Goodhue County jail on July 2. He appeared in Goodhue County District Court on July 6 and was being held on $500,000 bail.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Babysitting boyfriend charged in two-year-old girl's death (Cannon Falls, Minnesota)
Babysitting boyfriend charged in girl's death