Inside the pediatric unit of Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, a 1-month-old girl is on a ventilator in critical condition. Her parents brought her in for care Friday. The diagnosis from nurses and investigators: abuse.
"We're treating the investigation the same now as we would in a homicide case," said Sgt. Dennis Duffy of the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations.
It allegedly happened at the family home. Though no one witnessed it, after multiple interviews, the baby's mother told police she suspects the father, Travis Hammond, 24, is to blame.
Investigators say older, healed injuries point to a pattern of abuse.
"I just can't picture it, you know," said Chelsea Hammond, Travis' sister.
Hammond's sister, Chelsea, also lives on the property with her family. She says she doesn't believe her brother hurt his child, but is confused, angry and feels betrayed if he did.
"He was awesome with my two kids, just that he wouldn't be awesome with his is beside me," Chelsea Hammond said.
Travis Hammond faces 15 years in prison if he's eventually convicted, and more if the baby passes away.
Hammond's isn't the only recent case. Last Wednesday, nurses spotted signs of abuse in a 13-month-old staying at the Ronald McDonald House while awaiting seizure treatment. A bruise matching a hand appeared overnight. Prosecutors charged Stephanie Flack, 19, of New York, with two misdemeanor counts after her husband admitted to police that she had hit her child previously.
"I'm just sickened and saddened to hear about these cases," said Kay Shangraw, a spokesperson for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.
Shangraw says cases of abuse are far too common in Vermont, but unfortunately, signs are nearly invisible except in the worst examples, so the solution is teaching the caregivers.
"These people aren't horrible people; there's people out there that shouldn't probably ever take care of a baby, but most likely they're loving parents," Shangraw said.
Shangraw says crying is the most common trigger, which all babies do. So, they visit hospitals to teach nurses, who can teach parents in-turn.
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