7 1/2 Months old. Taken about
2 weeks prior to her abuse.
My husband and I found out I was pregnant in January of 1999, right after the New Year holiday. I was due in September, which was kind of neat because my best friend (we'll call her *Beth) was pregnant also (she was due in May). Through our pregnancies we grew closer and closer, sharing everything and having quite a few laughs along the way. I even planned on having *Beth take me to the hospital if I happened to have gone into labor while my husband, was at work (he worked 3rd shift at the time). My husband and I decided that after I had the baby that I would go back to work full-time and that we would have to find a daycare provider. I had a few people in mind, but then *Beth told me that she was going to do in-home day care so she could stay home with her daughter. She really wanted to watch our baby, and I asked her several times whether or not she could handle two infants under the age of one. She reassured me that she'd be fine because her husband worked 2nd shift and would be home during the day to help her. I thought what could be better than having your best friend watch your child, right? Boy I couldn't have more wrong in my life. If I had only known the nightmare we'd have to live though.
On September 13th, after 24 hours of labor, I gave birth to our daughter Brittney by c-setion due to slow progression. She was our little angel. No matter where we took her, people were always saying how cute and adorable she was, and we were always hearing comments about her big blue eyes. *Beth couldn't get enough of her either. She babied her like she was her own. I thought, "Brittney is in the safest place she could be." Well when Brittney was about 5 month old, *Beth's husband transferred to 1st shift. Brittney started coming home with little bruises. She was learning to sit, and *Beth always told us that she would lose her balance and fall on top of some toys. I always shrugged it off, thinking that she's a baby, and that babies are likely to get bruises. Wrong. A week before Easter on April 18th, I came home from work and my husband said, "Don't freak out, but I took Brittney to the emergency room when I picked her up today." My heart sank. Apparently *Beth had her standing against a kitchen chair and Brittney lost her balance (because she was just learning to stand) and supposedly hit her face on the chair. Her eyes, nose, and forehead were black and blue, and she had a big goose egg in the middle of her forehead. It brought tears to my eyes every time I looked at her.
If you look closely, you can see the swelling
and darkness around Britt's eyes from the
April 18th incident. (taken about 4 days later)
My husband told me that *Beth said she would call me that evening, but by 9:00 she never called so I called her. She told me what she told my husband, and I told her that she is not allowed to have her stand anymore because a week before she had an accident too. She accepted my wishes, and proceeded to tell me that Brittney had been a handful lately. Supposedly she would sit on the floor and whine if *Beth didn't hold her. She would also cry if any of the other children would come anywhere near her. I found this very strange because nobody else seemed to have a problem when watching her. I told her that Brittney doesn't get held all the time at home, and to try and break her of this habit at her house. I told her that I would call her in a week to see how Brittney was doing, and if she was still the same, I'd have to find someone else. She agreed to this, and I called her a week later and she informed me that Brittney was doing much better. So, against my mother-in-law's wishes, we decided to keep her in *Beth's care. I would consider this to be one of the biggest mistakes in my life.
Our nightmare began on May 3rd, 2000, I remember it as if it were yesterday. It will be forever branded in our memories. I was sitting at my desk at my new job when the phone rang. It was my supervisor informing me to call the Emergency room in the town where we live. *Beth brought in Brittney because she was limp and barely breathing if at all. My heart fell, and I started crying. Not knowing if my baby was all right I rushed home. I met my husband and mother-in-law in the hall. They informed me that she was fine but that we were taking her to a nearby city to have a CT Scan done on her head because she had a big bump on the left side of it. I asked my mother-in-law what happened. She said that *Beth said she took the kids for a walk, came in the house, put the kids in the living room, went into the kitchen to make them a snack, came out picked Brittney up and she was limp and lethargic. This didn't sound right to me, but I was too worried about Brittney to care at this point. Before I had arrived at the ER in town, the doctor was originally going to send Brittney home. Stating that he thought she just suffered from a seizure. My husband was there with his mother, and questioned the nurse about this when the doctor left the room. He asked her about the big red bump that was on the side of Brittney's head. The nurse said that they weren't concerned about it, because *Beth had Britt in the stroller, and she had fallen asleep, and the bump was from her head vibrating against the side of the stroller. My husband didn't buy this, so he questioned the doctor about it when he came back into the room. The doctor acted like he didn't see it before. He all of a sudden had a change of plans. He decided to have the CT scan done right away. But he gave us the option to have her taken by ambulance, or by family car. Not thinking that there was anything seriously wrong, we decided to take her by family car. So we left our town's hospital and took her to the other hospital to have the CT scan done. The CT Scan done on her head showed she had a fracture going almost halfway across her skull, and some bleeding between the skull and brain. They immediately decided to airlift her to Iowa City to the University of Iowa Hospitals by helicopter. When we got the news about the fracture and bleeding, I immediately called *Beth to find out what happened. I wanted to hear it straight from her. When she talked to me, she didn't even sound a bit upset. I asked her what happened. She gave me the same story she gave my mother-in-law. I said, "I want to know what happened. An 8-month old baby just doesn't get a fractured skull by sitting on the floor." I then said "I'm sorry *Beth, but put yourself in my shoes." Her response was like a slap in the face. She said, "No, put yourself in MY shoes. I was scared half to death." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Here we didn't know if our little girl was going to survive, and she's telling me to put myself in HER shoes. I was so disgusted with her that I hung up. Then a County Sheriff's Investigator, named Dan, approached us for questioning. He was wonderful and very sympathetic, and asked my husband and I some different questions. He informed us that they were going to do a complete investigation on *Beth and they'd get down to the bottom of it and find out what really happened.
Big red welt with a grid-like-pattern where Brittney had a Subdural Hematoma.
To this day I have never cried so hard in my life, than I did the moment they took her away from us in the helicopter. There wasn't enough room for either of us to ride with her, so we had to drive 2 hours by car. It was the longest two hours of our lives. Of course I started blaming myself. If I would have only listened to my mother-in-law and pulled her out two weeks earlier. They airlifted her because they weren't real sure how much bleeding there was and whether or not they'd have to do surgery. And there were no neurosurgeons in the area that specialized in children. By the time we got down to the hospital, a team of neurosurgeons and other doctors checked out Brittney. It turned out that there was minimal bleeding and that it would absorb into her system naturally so there was no need to do surgery. That was a huge relief.
the back of Britt's head. have occurred when she was shaken.
After an extensive examination from her round little head to her tiny little toes, the doctors stated that Brittney's was indeed suffering from a skull fracture with swelling on the right side of her head, a 5 mm thick subdural hematoma and a left excoriated scalp lesion. There was also a grid-like pattern on the left side of her head, and Brittney's left eardrum was blown. She was then taken to Otolaryngology where they did a retinal exam on her. This showed that she also had retinal bleeds in both of her eyes, but more so in her right. Since Brittney had no history of trauma, she stated that this was likely not an accident. The doctors stated that this was a Shaken Baby/Slammed Baby case. They decided to keep her for about a week for observation. We then were approached by a social worker that worked at the hospital. It was then that we were told that the doctors were claiming that it was shaken baby syndrome. The reason being that retinal hemorrhages are very hard to get. About the only way a child can get them is from the back and forth movement of being shaken. She then told us what they suspected *Beth did to Brittney. She said that they think due to the grid like pattern on Brittney's bump on her head that she shook her a few times, and threw her into the playpen against the wall. Our skin crawled listening to this. I thought I was going to throw up. She told us that there was a complete investigation on *Beth and that she could definitely serve jail time for this. After a day or two of denial, it finally hit me. *Beth was responsible for our angel's near death experience.
and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa. (taken the day before her release)
The investigators went out to *Beth's house right away after Brittney was airlifted. They questioned her a little bit and left. At one point during the investigation, they had told her that Brittney had the kind of injury that can narrow down the time frame and it happened there with her. Her comment was "I really don't know what to say. Is it a fist mark? Are you trying to say I hit her?" Reading her comment about a fist mark in the report gave me the chills. They then decided to come back later that night and ask her some more questions because what she was telling them just wasn't adding up. But by the time they got back out to our town, she had already hired an attorney. So therefore, her answers were pretty limited. *Beth had three different stories on where Brittney was when she became limp and lethargic. She told us she was on the floor in the living room; she told the investigators she was in the playpen in her bedroom; and she told the nurse at the hospital in town that she was in the stroller outside. We considered ourselves lucky since we weren't scrutinized by the investigative team. The reason being is that the time frame was much too large. I dropped Brittney off at *Beth's house at 8 that morning. She didn't rush her to the hospital until 2 that afternoon. All of Brittney's doctors stated that as severe as Britt's injuries were, she would have started having symptoms within an hour of the injury or less. So my husband and I were never investigated.
The playpen against the wall where they suspect Britt was thrown.
At the end of August, after almost 4 months, they finally charged *Beth with Child Endangerment, a Class C Felony. And on September 13th, Brittney turned one. We had a big celebration, and invited all of our close friends and family. We had a lot to celebrate between Brittney's miraculous recovery, to *Beth being charged with this awful crime. *Beth was also investigated on two other cases involving two other little boys that were in her care. But they had insufficient evidence and didn't have enough to charge her in those cases. The Department of Human Services report came back founded and so *Beth is placed on the Central Registry for abuse in the state of Iowa, not only on our case, but also on the other two little boy's cases. But apparently that isn't enough to charge her with the crime. *Beth tried appealing DHS's decision about being founded for abuse. Her attorney stated all sorts of reasons why their decision should have been reversed. Of course DHS had reasons for every point he made, and therefore her request was denied. They stated they had an overwhelming amount of evidence that showed she did indeed physically assault Brittney.
In February 2000, we started the court proceedings. She of course plead not guilty, and so we moved on to pretrial events. At the end of February we were scheduled for depositions. *Beth of course chose to sit in on mine. I bore holes into her, but she would not look at me. She kept her face down, jotting stuff in her little notebook she had. When I walked out of the room, I broke down in tears. My husband was there to comfort me. I looked at the county attorney still crying, and said, "I just want her to go away. I want her to go away for a very long time for what she did to our daughter." She said she'd do everything she can do to make that happen.
Things were looking good for the prosecution. With *Beth's inconsistency with her stories; all of Brittney's doctors down in Iowa City stating it was clearly a shaken baby case; and a good expert witness that was willing to state what great of force it would have taken to cause Brittney's injuries, we thought we could get a clear conviction. But when our expert witness read a report that one of *Beth's expert witness's wrote, he backed out on us. Her expert witness (Dr. Plunkert) did a report on how many cases are misdiagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, and that a lot of these types of injuries can be caused by just a short fall. I could not believe what I was hearing. And so without this expert witness willing to tell the jury what kind of force it took, it would raise doubt on the case against *Beth, and therefore she probably would have walked. In September 2001, a week before we were scheduled to go to trial, she decided to plead guilty to a lesser charge of Child Endangerment, at an aggravated misdemeanor level. At her arraignment, she wasn't even present to give her guilty plea. Instead she entered a written plea. This really upset my husband and me, and the rest of our family. It just showed that she still wasn't taking responsibility for what she did. Before the judge made his decision on her sentence, I read my victim impact statement. It was two pages long, and in it I told him now this affected not only Brittney's life, but ours also. I begged him to give her at least a week of county jail time. That she wouldn't learn with just a slap on the wrist. But he didn't listen to anything I said. He stuck with the original plea bargain of 2 years probation. This punishment was a slap in the face. People get more of a punishment with a traffic violation than she did, and she almost killed our daughter. She was also required to pay us restitution for out of pocket expenses we had paid, she isn't allowed to have ANY job involving children under the age of 18 until she's off probation in September 2003, and she had to write my husband and me a letter of apology. I couldn't wait to see what she would write. When we received the letter, it was as pathetic as she is.
We then filed a lawsuit against her. We knew we weren't going to get much out of it since her homeowner's policy had an exclusion on daycare and she didn't have any liability insurance. We settled on this lawsuit in April of 2002, and ended up with a very small amount. But the money wasn't the reason for the lawsuit. We wanted to make a point to her that we weren't going to condone what she did to Brittney. And to us, settling this lawsuit was another way of her pleading guilty to abusing our baby. The money we recieved went into a conservatorship account in Brittney's name. She will not be able to touch the money until she is of age for it is guarded by the courts. Shewill then be able take it out so she can use it toward her college education.
So almost two years after this nightmare started, it finally ended. At least to a point. We still have to constantly wonder if Brittney will have any learning difficulties down the road. But so far, she's as healthy and happy as a normal little girl her age, and we thank God every day for that.
After Brittney was released from the hospital, we had the fear of finding a new daycare provider for Brittney. My mother-in-law referred us to her manager's wife, who was currently doing in-home daycare. So we interviewed her, and talked to a few of the parents that currently took their kids there. We heard nothing but good things about her. During our interview with her, Irma told us that she understood what we must be going through, and to give her a month, and she'll have us all back to normal. Sure enough after a few weeks we could drop Brittney off every morning and not sit there and worry about her all day. Irma was an angel set to us from above. She nursed Brittney back to her old self from the timid little girl *Beth caused her to be. She went from holding on to us for dear life, to not wanting to leave Irma's at the end of the day. Irma and her husband Jason, along with their two children Gabrielle and J.J., treated Brittney as if she were their own. Brittney didn't just need someone to watch her everyday, she needed a mother figure to watch over her when we weren't able to be around and nurse her back to her old self. Then in June 2001, Jason got the news that he was to be transferred for his job.
Irma & Jason Eisele with Brittney
at her 1st Birthday Party.
This was devasting news to our whole family. My husband and I were now left with finding new arrangements for Brittney. We contacted a state run daycare facility located in town. Not really thinking we would get her in, since we've heard there's such a long waiting list, we were absolutely joyed to hear that there was an opening. So now Brittney attends daycare at this state run daycare facility and we hear from them all the time on how well she is doing. We pay a little more sending her here. But to us price isn't an option anymore. We will never send our children to another in-home daycare again. I have nothing against in-home daycare's, especially because we had such good luck with Irma, but with what we went though with *Beth, I just can't jeopardize my child's life again. We still have problems with trust when it comes to our daughter. But we know she's in good hands at her new daycare facility. Since she has been out of *Beth's care, Brittney hasn't had one single injury. Not to mention any bruises other than what a typical child her age gets from playing.
I still have difficulty even looking at *Beth. I know holding onto anger is never good for anyone, but I honestly don't know if I can ever forgive her for what she has done. Maybe I could find it in myself to forgive her if she has shown at least a little bit of remorse for what she has done, or if she could have at least apologized to us. But she has done neither. As a matter of fact almost a year after she plead guilty, I ran into her and exchanged a few words after she had the gull to look at Brittney and smile at her. Everytime I think of the smile that she gave my daughter, it sends chills down my spine. Although she plead guilty to this horrible crime, and settled a lawsuit with us, she still denies she did anything to Brittney. She holds on to the idea that her expert witness put in her head, that Brittney could have gotten her injuries from a short fall. We all know that isn't possible. I do believe she has told her lie so often that maybe she does believe that she didn't do anything. *Beth still resides in our town with her husband, their 4-year old daughter, and 1 1/2 year old son. I've had nothing but bad feelings ever since I had heard she was pregnant with her son. I told her that I pray to God that her little baby doesn't fall victim to her abuse like my daughter did. I also told her that she's a disgrace to mother's around the world. And this I do believe.
Since that confrontation, I have found the will to let it all go for the most part. There will always be a part of me that will always wonder what really happened that day. But I find peace knowing that not only do we not have to live with the vision of what happened, but Brittney won't remember it either. The person that WILL have to live with that vision for the rest of her life is *Beth. She can go on denying that she never did anything to our Brittney, but we know, and she knows what reallly happened that sunny day in May. We have all the medical evidence stacked against her. If I had anything at all to say to her friends and family that have pointed the finger at us, and claimed that WE made *Beth's life hell, it would be she made her own hell. I'd tell them to ask her to read her social service report and all the medical records. That says it all. All I can say is she's lucky that Brittney turned out alright. Because if she didn't, *Beth would be behind bars right now. And this she knows herself.
So now I've started my own little mission. I joined the local council for the Prevention of Child Abuse. I was asked by our county attorney (the one that worked on our case) if I would maybe consider speaking to the county attorney's association sometime on the problems that we face with convicting these criminals, and how these outcomes affect us victims. And I developed this website promoting shaken baby syndrome awareness. This is definitely a rising problem in our country. I wish they'd start cracking down on these abusers. No punishment is great enough for what they've done to our children. We consider ourselves extremely blessed to still have Brittney with us today. There definitely was an angel watching over her that day.
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