Thursday, February 21, 2013

Does accused killer dad weep for dead baby - or for himself? (Dallas, Texas)

Excellent piece by Jacquielynn Floyd. Blunt talk about child abuse is a welcome change. Too often we just see a lot of hand wringing and moaning about "tragedy."

We've reported on dad TOMMY JAMES WHITE JR. before--who apparently had some sort of visitation, as the mother was reportedly married to someone else.

Does accused father weep for dead baby — or for himself?

Jacquielynn Floyd

Published: 20 February 2013 10:13 PM

Tommy James White Jr. must have partied hard last Thursday night. By his own admission, he woke up early Friday with a hangover and a skull-busting headache.

The baby was crying.

What happened next, said the 20-year-old White — in a series of blubbering, self-pitying jailhouse interviews this week — was that he “held” and “rocked” and “bounced” his 5-week-old daughter, trying to calm her down.

“I’ve never hurt anyone,” he sobbed. “I was just rocking her, holding her.”

Babies, of course, don’t die from being rocked and held. They do die from being choked, punched or shaken so violently that their brains scramble like eggs inside their fragile skulls.

Police think something along those lines happened to Spencer Claire White, who was unconscious and not breathing when other family members came home after leaving her for only a half-hour in her father’s care.

Garland police say White’s girlfriend and another relative went to a store about 5 a.m. Friday to buy the baby a pacifier. When they returned, Spencer — who, at five weeks, was about the age at which many babies exhibit their first toothless smile — was still and unresponsive.

She died Friday night at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

Perhaps White, now in the Dallas County Jail on a capital murder charge, really was “just rocking her,” as he demonstrated for the television cameras, miming a person carefully supporting a watermelon.

Or maybe he just accidentally “squeezed her too tight,” as he indicated by mimicking a wide receiver cradling a football to his chest.

Then there’s the possibility that he couldn’t hold his temper for 30 minutes of routine child care and throttled the baby to stop her crying.

If that’s what happened, White is an intemperate monster, but he’s a monster with a lot of company.

During its first year of life, an infant in the U.S. runs a higher risk of being a homicide victim than at any other childhood age under 17.

Documented statistics show that more than one-fifth of all injury-related deaths of young babies are deliberate homicides.

Experts believe that that number may be seriously underreported, with homicides often mistaken as accidents or sudden infant death syndrome.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an infant killed in its first week of life is most likely to be the victim of his or her mother. Researchers speculate the motive may often be “a mother trying to hide the pregnancy and birth.”

After its first week of life and until its first birthday, an infant is more likely to be killed by an adult male — usually a father or stepfather.

A CDC report says this secondary spike in homicide risk occurs at about six to eight weeks, which “may reflect the peak in the daily duration of crying among normal infants.”

Babies cry. Why in the world do immature adults who lack the patience and self-control to cope with that irrefutable reality become parents?

It puzzles me to no end that people don’t picket the jailhouse and burn up the phone lines in their outrage over cases like this.

I can’t understand why they’re not down at the state Legislature right now, demanding better child-welfare and public-education and birth-control programs.

We’ll have to wait for a definitive medical examiner’s report to determine exactly what killed Spencer White, but court documents filed by Garland police say her father “admitted to numerous assaults on the child.”

If whatever killed her was not only a beating, but the last in a series of beatings, then this child’s short life was an unimaginable torment.

White, of course, is entitled to his version of events. As he piteously wailed to the TV stations, “They’ll give me the death penalty, and I’m innocent.”

Even if he’s guilty, he might as well dry his tears and calm down. If his case ever comes to that, it will be at the end of an exhaustive legal process that takes years to complete.

It’ll be a lot longer than five weeks.