How an abused newborn fell through the cracks of Oklahoma’s justice system

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 02/20/2020, 10:02 AM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(BRYAN COUNTY, Okla.) It’s been three weeks since a VNN investigation dug into a local family’s search for justice in the case of an abused newborn. “I want justice for Tyler,” his mom Sarah McCartney said. “He deserves it. I mean, nobody should ever have to go through that.” And three years the case has been in the hands of the Bryan County District Attorney’s Office. 11-week-old Tyler was taken to Texoma Medical Center then flown to Dallas Children’s with what was later discovered to be a bilateral subdural hemorrhage on January 12, 2017.
Doctors were able to save his life. A bilateral subdural hemorrhage, or hematoma as it also called, is when a blood vessel near the surface of the brain bursts, causing blood to build up between the brain and the brain's tough outer lining. His parents said the doctors told them it was from a severe head injury. “They said there’s only two ways that could have happened,” Tyler’s dad Josh Meade said. “There was either a car wreck or he was shook.” Tyler was not in a car accident that day. Records show law enforcement found his injuries to be “highly concerning for abusive head trauma and child physical abuse”. A Dallas doctor told investigators the child’s injury was consistent with shaken baby syndrome. But no one was ever charged. The report from the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office lists one suspect: now 59-year-old Diana Thomas of Colbert, who was babysitting the child when he was hurt. She first told investigators she tripped and fell onto a blowup mattress while holding the newborn. Then later told them she dropped the baby on a couch. Doctors said neither action could have caused the severe injuries the 11-week-old had received. Tyler’s mom, Sarah McCartney, said she’s known Thomas for years, after going to school with her daughter since the sixth grade. She said Thomas told her Tyler just randomly started acting funny so she called 911, and didn’t say anything about falling with him until days later. She did not go to the hospital with them. “It’s been three years,” McCartney said. “It’s not right for something like that to carry on that long. And then someone can go out and beat a dog and they’ll be in jail the next day. But then again you can almost kill a child and still do whatever you want.” We have reached out to Thomas for her side of the story, but have yet to hear back. Deputies interviewed Thomas twice, once at her home and once at the sheriff’s office. They then turned their incident report over the DA’s office about two weeks after the offense occurred. “I don’t understand how they have all the paperwork from all the hospitals and everything else showing that’s what was done and nothing has been done to her yet, you know?” Meade said. “There’s paperwork among paperwork and doctor upon doctor saying that that’s what happened and she’s still out there walking and nothings been done. She may have been interviewed but she hasn’t gone to court or anything over it. You know?” Meade told us calls to the DA’s office only yield more questions. “I’ve called them several different times and it’s always they need more papers,” Meade said. “Or they need something showing it’s going to affect his long-term learning ability and stuff like that.” Medical records from Tyler’s 6 month check up after the incident show doctors also don’t know what the case is waiting on. VNN spoke with Assistant District Attorney Whitney Kerr about the case last month. She told us she is still looking for a medical expert to review thousands of pages of medical records for her to determine if, beyond a reasonable doubt, the baby’s injuries were caused by an intentional act before they decide to file charges. “We currently have a doctor that we work with frequently that we’re trying to get to review the records, but he hasn’t formally accepted them at this time,” Kerr told VNN via email. “If he refuses to look at them, we’ll continue the search.” Initially, when we asked Kerr why she is opting for an expert medical witness, she told us different doctors wrote different things in their reports and she just wants a more definitive opinion put in writing as the cause of Tyler’s injuries. VNN went through nearly 900 pages of medical records. Page after page pointed to numerous doctors at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Dr. Kristen Reeder, who told investigators there’s no way Thomas’ stories could explain the extensive injuries young Tyler received. Dr. Daniel Veltkamp, who concluded Tyler’s CT scans were concerning for abusive trauma. Dr. David Schindel, the pediatric surgeon who signed off on a diagnosis on blunt head trauma. We reached out to Children’s Medical Center to find out if they were involved in the case. They provided this statement: “Due to medical privacy laws, we do not discuss specific patients or their medical conditions.” Medical experts we spoke with said the medical expert witnesses prosecutors typically use are the ones who treated the child directly. “I wish we could at least get a court date or something and her go in front of a judge because the papers show what happened from several different doctors.” Meade said. VNN reached out again to Kerr for further clarification on why she is choosing to hire a medical expert witness, whose hourly fees can be as much as $1000 per hour, instead of subpoenaing the many doctors who treated Tyler to testify, or seeing if one of them would be the medical expert Kerr needs. We have not heard back. We reached out to Bryan County District Attorney Emily Redman to find out if her ADAs had time frames in which to make decisions on whether to file charges in cases but have not received a response back at this time. One local doctor pointed us to the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, to see if their medical experts could be any help. OCCY Director Annette Wisk Jacobi, J.D., told VNN their organization works to improve child services, not assist in the prosecution of criminals. Simply put, they don’t delegate experts to review cases that have yet to be prosecuted. So, what if the Bryan County’s District Attorney’s Office never moves to prosecute Tyler’s case? We reached out to the Oklahoma State Attorney’s General’s Office to see what, if any, other action could be taken. Oklahoma Attorney General spokesperson Alex Gerszewski told VNN, “Since it is an ongoing investigation by the DA’s office, we are going to reserve comment at this time.” “I can’t deal with it,” McCartney said. “And that’s hard.” McCartney said holding Tyler before he was flown to Dallas felt like the last time she would ever see him alive. “Remembering that day, when he was laying there at the hospital,” McCartney said. “Not knowing if he was going to be okay. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.” She said knowing she was the one who brought Tyler to the babysitter’s that day is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life as well. “I feel like it’s my fault. I will always feel like that,” McCartney said. “I’m the one who took him there because I had to go to work. She watched my daughter so I thought it was okay.” Thomas was cited by the state for operating as an unlicensed care provider. Oklahoma Human Services spokesperson Casey White told us many parents are not aware of the free resources the state provides to protect themselves from unlicensed childcare providers, like the state’s Child Care Locator found here: She said care providers need to be licensed unless they meet the following exemptions: care provided in a child's own home or by relatives, informal arrangements for the occasional care of children, programs in which children attend on a drop-in basis and parents are on the premises and readily accessible, and programs operating for 15 hours or less per week. A full list of exemptions can be found here: “Luckily, we got family and good friends that’s helped us through everything but it’s just the thought of nothing being done with him getting hurt, you know,” Meade said. “That’s what really bothers everybody.” “Just make sure you know who watches your children,” McCartney said. “Who you leave them with. But just because you think you know someone doesn’t mean you really do.” Link to original story:


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