Monday, April 02, 2007

Second Lexington child to die at the hands of a parent within the past 31 days

Another child killed, another parent charged
Short lives, violent deaths - 2-month-old dies from injuries
Lennen, Steve and Delano Massey. Lexington Herald-Leader, March 28, 2007, pg. A1.

As young children played in the grass yesterday on Winnie Drive, Ruben and Lester Clarkson said they had a hard time believing what authorities say occurred the day before behind a nearby apartment door.

Michael Lee Reed, 19, is accused of killing his two-month-old daughter, Brianna Brown. He is charged with murder. Brianna is the third Central Kentucky child -- and the second Lexington baby -- to die in 31 days allegedly at the hands of a parent.

Brianna died from her injuries yesterday morning at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, according to Lexington police.

An autopsy at the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort is scheduled for this morning, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said.

Neighbors Ruben and Lester Clarkson, who are brothers, said they couldn't picture Reed injuring his baby girl. They agreed he was quiet, even timid.

"He doesn't seem like the type of person who would do that. He's been out here and played with my kids," Lester Clarkson said. Later he added, "But behind closed doors, hey, you never know."

On Monday, police were called about 1:10 p.m. to the UK medical center about an unresponsive child. Lexington firefighters and EMTs earlier went to the Prall Place Apartments on Winnie Drive and took the baby to the hospital.

Reed later called Lester Clarkson from the hospital and told him the child was brain dead, Clarkson said.

Police arrested Reed and initially charged him with first-degree criminal abuse at 2:15 a.m. yesterday. The charges were upgraded to murder after the infant died at 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

According to the initial police report, Reed "intentionally abused" his 2-month-old daughter, which resulted in serious physical injury.

The report also said Reed admitted the abuse.

Reed is being held in the Fayette County jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charge this afternoon in Fayette District Court. Since the charge has been changed, his bond will not be set until after his arraignment.

Brianna Brown is the second Lexington baby to die in recent weeks.

Caleb Eli Bishop died Feb. 25 at UK Hospital after four days in intensive care. He suffered a skull fracture, a broken leg, retinal hemorrhaging and an injury to his right ear, according to court documents.

His mother, Courtney Diane Brundige Bishop, is charged with murder and is scheduled for a preliminary court hearing this morning.

Investigators would not say much about the circumstances surrounding Brianna's death. Police Lt. John Gensheimer said he could not comment on the nature or the cause of the child's injuries.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services said that Brianna's death will be investigated by the cabinet, but declined to say whether state social workers had previous contact with the family. It was not known last night where the couple's 2-year-old son was staying.

Ruben Clarkson worked with Reed at a nearby Dairy Queen until about a week ago. He said they worked during the evenings and Reed was often at his girlfriend's apartment during the day caring for Brianna and the 2-year-old boy, Brandon, they have together.

"He played out here all the time with the boy," Clarkson said. If Reed is responsible for the baby's death, it must have been an accident, he said. "I don't think it was intentional."

Last night, Reed's father, James Smith, was also struggling to wrap his mind around the tragedy.
As he stood outside on his front porch, Smith clutched a tiny pink object, which resembled a flower in a small pot. Instead of petals, the flower had a white furry mane surrounding a framed picture of Brianna. He stared at the picture, then his eyes floated toward the ground.

"I think they're rushing to judgment," Smith said. "I know they have to blame somebody, but why rush judgment?"

Reed's thoughts drifted to Monday, when his son called, his voice trembling in fear.

"I don't know what happened that day," Smith said. "He called us acting like he was scared. He said the baby was sick -- she was vomiting. That's all we know."

Smith said Brianna has never been abused, to his knowledge. Reed would often drop Brianna off with his parents while he ran errands. Neither Smith nor his wife ever noticed any marks or bruises. Reed has two other children -- his young son and an infant with another woman -- and there have never been any signs of abuse with them, Smith said.

"I've been around this boy for so many years," he said, pausing to collect his thoughts. "I'm really worried. Hopefully the charges they have against him aren't true."

Staff writer Beth Musgrave contributed to this report.

How to report suspected child abuse
If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services suggests you call the Child Protection Hot Line at 1-800-752-6200, or the Protection and Permanency office in your county. The cabinet's Web site, http://chfs htm, lists some answers to frequently asked questions:

Who should report suspected abuse or neglect of a child?
The Kentucky Revised Statute says every person -- not just teachers and doctors -- who has reasonable cause to think a child is being physically abused, sexually abused, neglected or is dependent has a duty to report the abuse.

What information do you need to provide when reporting abuse?
* The child's name, sex and approximate age.
* The name of the person thought to have been responsible for the abuse or neglect.
* A description of the injury, neglect or threatened harm to the child.
* The current location of the child; day care or school; home address.
* Any immediate risk to the child or to a worker going out to ensure the child's safety (i.e., guns).

Can a person reporting abuse be sued?
The reporter is given civil and criminal immunity from prosecution as long as the reporter acted in good faith. The Department for Community Based Services releases the name of a reporter only upon the order of a judge.

If I report someone for child abuse, do I have to give my name?
No. Abuse reports can be made anonymously. However, in order to follow up with additional information, callers are encouraged to identify themselves.

What happens to children who are being abused if it is reported?
Reports of child abuse will be investigated by the Department for Community Based Services. If it is substantiated, children may be removed from the home and placed in foster care until their family situation can be evaluated and corrected. Treatment services are provided, which may make it possible for children to remain in the home.

Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services; Kentucky Revised Statutes.


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