Sun, Mar 27, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Circumstances of Connecticut baby's death questioned

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , Hartford, Connecticut

The baby's death was as bewildering as it was shocking. Just 10 minutes after a nurse at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center here tucked her into her crib one night last month, the 8-month-old girl was found lying injured on the floor in a pool of blood.

The girl's mother said the hospital told her at first that the baby had rolled out of the crib. After the baby died, the police said they, too, believed that the death was an accident, perhaps caused by a 7-year-old boy who had wandered away from his family during a visit to another patient.

But now, two state officials involved in the investigation say that an autopsy has revealed severe injuries that indicate the baby's fall was not accidental.

An autopsy report has not been released, and the police and state officials are still puzzling over the case. The baby, Jade Elizabeth Pinette, was found on Feb. 19 on the floor of the 129-bed hospital, where she had lived since birth because of a chronic illness. After putting her to bed, a nurse heard the baby cry, returned and found her on the floor, said a hospital spokesman, Thomas J. Hanley. The baby died six days later.

The police initially theorized that the boy had tried to pick up Jade and that she slipped out of his arms, investigators said. But the autopsy has revealed that her skull was caved in and that her head had hit the floor more than once, said the two state officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. The baby, they added, was found 10 feet from her crib.

Hanley, the hospital spokesman, said police "they told us they were looking at a 7-year-old, and that's all we heard," Hanley said.

The boy, who lives in Meriden with guardians, was seen in the baby's room earlier on the day of the incident, although the baby was not there at the time.

The police are also investigating whether the crib's side railings were raised when the baby was tucked in for the night, the officials said. Hanley said the railings were raised.

When police officers asked the boy to lift an object roughly the same weight and shape as the baby out of the crib with its railings raised, he was not tall enough to do so, the two investigators said. Nor was he able to lower the railings.

The investigation has been especially difficult because the police were not called to the scene until about seven hours after the baby was injured. When they arrived, the crib had been pushed to a corner and the floor cleaned, making it hard to obtain fingerprints. Hanley said hospital officials had not notified the police right away because they did not suspect foul play. But when they were unable to sort out what had happened, he said, they called the police.

The Pinette family's lawyer said they were committed to finding out what happened to the baby. The mother, Deborah Pinette, said "This won't be ruled an accident, and I won't let it rest."

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