Grandparents of slain toddler express regret over not calling authorities sooner
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Two-year-old Hayden Lee, who died last month in Biloxi, is being remembered for his big blue eyes, his blonde hair and his infectious laughter.
It’s a smile that his grandparents Kelly Bataille and Nelson Fitzpatrick will miss. The two are now speaking out in the hopes that Hayden’s death will serve as an eye-opener to others who may be in similar situations.
Hayden, who was affectionately nicknamed BamBam, was found unresponsive on Dec. 27 after her daughter called first responders. The toddler was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. It was later determined the child was physically abused.
Less than a week later, the toddler’s mother and stepfather - 21-year-old Hailey Heard and 38-year-old Joseph Heard - were arrested on charges of capital murder. WLOX obtained the police report, which details multiple bruises covering the child’s body, as well as broken bones.
“He was a good kid... Best son, grandson. He was my heart. Nothing is going to justify what happened to him but he will have justice,” said Nelson Fitzpatrick, the child’s grandfather.
BamBam’s grandmother Kelly Bataille says she wishes she had known the warning signs and done more to help her grandson. She is now encouraging others to be vigilant when it comes to the children in their lives.
“If you see something, say something. Don’t wait too late,” she said.
According to Bataille, she had finally decided to report the abuse to authorities but, by the time she had made that decision, it was too late.
“When I spoke (to Hailey Heard) and said that I was going to make the phone call (to report abuse), the next day is when she did what she did,” said Bataille.
The toddler’s grandparents said Joseph Heard kept the child and his mother away from her family as much as possible.
“He kept them so isolated that they weren’t allowed to go anywhere,” Bataille said. “They were kept from us.”
According to Lisa Zimmerman with Canopy Children’s Solutions, that is one of the telltale signs of abuse.
“The main thing to remember is if you see something, to say something,” Zimmerman said. “Oftentimes, children that are being abused are kept isolated on the fact that they don’t want people in their business or to know what’s going on.”
“The Bible says it takes a village to raise a child so if you see something, say something,” emphasized Fitzpatrick.
Canopy Children’s Solutions handles around 700 child abuse cases each year. Zimmerman said if anyone suspects abuse, being nosey is a good thing.
On average, five children in the United States died every day from child abuse or neglect. In Mississippi, an average of 36 children died every year from maltreatment between 2015 and 2019.
If you suspect a child is being abused, report it immediately Child Protective Services by calling 1-800-222-8000.
Below is a list of signs to look for that could indicate a child is being abused.
- Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
- Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
- Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
- An apparent lack of supervision
- Frequent absences from school
- Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
- Attempts at running away
- Rebellious or defiant behavior
- Self-harm or attempts at suicide
- Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns
- Injuries that don’t match the given explanation
- Sexual behavior or knowledge that’s inappropriate for the child’s age
- Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection
- Blood in the child’s underwear
- Statements that he or she was sexually abused
- Inappropriate sexual contact with other children
- Delayed or inappropriate emotional development
- Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
- Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm
- Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus
- Desperately seeks affection
- A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school
- Loss of previously acquired developmental skills
- Poor growth or weight gain or being overweight
- Poor hygiene
- Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
- Taking food or money without permission
- Hiding food for later
- Poor record of school attendance
- Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care
Sometimes a parent’s demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:
- Shows little concern for the child
- Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child
- Blames the child for the problems
- Consistently belittles or berates the child, and describes the child with negative terms, such as “worthless” or “evil”
- Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child
- Uses harsh physical discipline
- Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
- Severely limits the child’s contact with others
- Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child’s injuries or no explanation at all
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