COOLIDGE — The death of two Coolidge infants who suffered severe injuries from suspected child abuse have been ruled homicides, according to the Coolidge Police Department.
On Nov. 3 investigators were notified of an infant being taken to Florence Anthem Hospital with injuries that hospital staff indicated were consistent with abuse or trauma.
At the hospital, police were met by the baby’s mother and father, Travis McDonald, 27. The mother told police that she had arrived home from work and found her twin 2-month-old children lying on support pillows that had been placed on the living room floor. The child in question was pale and had tilted his head back off the pillow.
She later told investigators that although the child was conscious and breathing, she noticed that his breath was irregular. In addition, the infant was not making eye contact with her, laughing or cooing as he normally would. She also found dried blood around the baby’s nose and mouth, which she initially believed to have been caused by having his head tilted over the edge of the pillow.
After discovering the two children on their pillows in the living room, the mother said she found her boyfriend, McDonald, sleeping in their bedroom.
Upon further observation of the first child, she then noticed the unusual symptoms, including the irregular breathing. At that point, she and McDonald took the baby to the hospital.
From Florence Anthem, the baby was transported to Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa. There, the parents were informed that the child was experiencing seizures. In addition, doctors reported finding bleeding and fluid on his brain, and the infant’s liver enzymes were reported to be high, which hospital personnel indicated may have been caused by trauma such as being shaken or dropped.
Both parents were interviewed by investigators, at which point the child’s mother informed officers that she had found bruises on the baby shortly after arriving at the hospital.
She reported that prior to going to work on Nov. 3 she had changed the child’s diaper and had not observed any bruising on him expect for one bruise on the forehead, which she indicated was caused when McDonald accidentally hit the child in the forehead with a bottle while attempting to feed both twins.
Other than that injury, she recalled seeing no other bruises on the infant’s body before heading to her 16-hour shift at work that morning and indicated that the child had exhibited no unusual behavior.
Police said that at the hospital the 2-month-old was found to have small bruises on his legs, arms, chest and underneath his chin and one of his ankles along with the bruise on his forehead.
According to investigators, the initial agreement between the two parents was that McDonald would stay home to take care of the kids while the mother continued to work. However, she reported there were a few instances where McDonald called her at work and begged her to come home, telling her he could not handle taking care of the two boys because they would not stop crying.
In light of the difficulty he was having, the mother then arranged for child care through a coworker. She told police that the last time a babysitter had watched the infants was the previous Friday before this incident.
When asked, the children’s mother indicated that she had never seen McDonald be abusive to either child.
While at Florence Anthem, police were informed by hospital staff that McDonald and the children’s grandfather had been involved in an argument. Through their investigation, police determined that the argument revolved around the grandfather’s suspicion that McDonald had somehow hurt the boys.
Police said that McDonald would not admit to abusing either child during his interview. However, he indicated he was the only person to take care of the children during the 16-hour period the mother was at work.
No arrest was made at the conclusion of the interviews in light of the evidence and findings that had been uncovered up to that point.
An investigator from the Arizona Department of Child Safety then decided to complete a welfare check on the other children in the family and discovered that the infant’s twin brother was displaying similar abnormal behavior.
Investigators said that the second baby was failing to make eye contact and did not laugh or coo as he normally would. The child was taken to Florence Anthem Hospital.
Doctors managed to stabilize him and he was transported to the children’s hospital in Mesa. According to police, hospital staff indicated that the twins would suffer permanent effects from their injuries.
Both infants died on Nov. 8.
Police indicated that one of the boys had approximately four to six rib fractures that had healed, four rib fractures that were more recent, bleeding on the brain and a possible broken arm.
Injuries found on the second child included several healed rib fractures, two skull fractures and bleeding on the brain.
Not long after his interview, investigators learned, McDonald left the hospital. The following morning, at 7:44 a.m., officers were dispatched to the residence where McDonald lived with his girlfriend to assist in a civil standby so the couple’s other children could get some of their belongings from the apartment.
At that point, McDonald was considered a suspect in the case, which led police to check the residence to ensure no one was inside. They found McDonald dead inside the home. His death was determined to be a suicide.
Investigators said that McDonald is believed to be the lone suspect involved in the child abuse, but other elements of the case are still under investigation.