CLEARFIELD – A Grassflat woman is facing multiple charges for allegedly assaulting her 23-month-old child.
Vanessa R. Bainey, 25, is charged by Clearfield-based state police with felony aggravated assault, strangulation and child endangerment, as well as related misdemeanor offenses.
Bainey waived her right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday during centralized court. Her bail is set at $100,000 unsecured.
According to the affidavit, the investigation began the morning of May 2 when Clearfield County Children & Youth Services requested assistance of state troopers at a Decatur Township residence.
At 3:58 a.m., Bainey’s 23-month-old boy was reportedly struggling to breathe and was going unconscious. He was subsequently transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College.
The child reportedly had red ligature marks around his neck, and when Bainey spoke with 911, she said he had her hair wrapped around his neck and started to choke.
State police interviewed the paramedic who arrived on-scene first from Moshannon Valley EMS. He said when he saw the markings on the child’s neck, he initially thought they were from a cord.
But after hearing Bainey’s story, he thought that was also a possibility and so he permitted the family to transport the child for medical treatment.
Dr. Bridget Flickinger, M.D., Mount Nittany Medical Center, evaluated the child, concluding his injuries were not consistent with hair tourniquet.
“Neck hair tourniquet [with] a 23-month-old [boy] would be highly unusual, particularly to this degree,” Flickinger wrote. “Injuries were more consistent with a cord or wire.”
Flickinger said in her opinion, Bainey’s story was inaccurate. She then requested the child be transported to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, for further examination of his injuries.
There, the child was seen by Dr. Paul J. Bellino, M.D., who found “a very clear” ligature mark around his neck, as well as an abrasion over his forehead and posterior area of his neck.
“There are associated bruises above the ligature mark in the posterior aspect of his neck, as well as residual petechiae under both eyes,” Bellino reported.
Additionally, he stated the child “clearly” had other areas of bruising at the time he presented, which cleared during the interval before his examination.
Bellino called the mark on the child’s neck a “classic ligature” that is typical of a thin rope or electrical cord. During strangulation, he indicated it’s not uncommon to have petechiae in the orbital region.
“Bruising around the ligature mark is common as a result of direct physical trauma from the ligature, as well as any efforts the patient may take to free themself.”
Bellino said there was “no question” the mark is demonstrative of strangulation with ligature. And because he didn’t find Bainey had a “typical story,” Bellino felt it was possibly a case of child abuse.
A Rockview-based state trooper interviewed Bainey at Mount Nittany Medical Center. She said she’d fallen asleep with the child and was awoken by him pulling her hair.
This, Bainey said, is when she realized the child had wrapped her hair around his neck. She said she was unable to get him free, and went to her parents’ room.
She said they were able to get the child free, and made the call to 911. Bainey was also interviewed by polygrapher, Cpl. Matthew Higgins, at the state police barracks.
In a written statement, Bainey said the child likes her hair for a security blanket and it helps him nap. She said her bed is next to her window blind and she apparently didn’t tie the cord up.
She said the child must have grabbed or started playing with the cord while rolling around. She said he grabbed her face and hair, which woke her, and accidentally caught himself in the cord.
When she realized what happened, Bainey said she unraveled the cord and immediately ran to her parents’ room. She said he also grabbed her hair and got tangled in it on the way to their room.
She said her father got the child untangled, made sure he was okay and they called 911. She said she went to the emergency room to make sure and was told everything would be alright.
A PSP forensic science unit went to Bainey’s residence. Photographs were taken of the window blind and measurements were taken of the cord. Troopers also seized the blind as evidence.
In a phone interview with state police, Bellino called the case “bizarre,” saying the marks on the child’s neck were classic ligature and it was highly unlikely that they were caused by hair.
Bellino guessed the injuries could have been caused by a cell phone charger cord or something similar, and said it would’ve been wrapped around the child’s neck a couple of times.
“And it doesn’t explain the totality of other injuries and bruises,” Bellino told troopers.