County attorney calls for task force in the wake of 2-year-old’s death
Thu, 04/13/2017 - 4:27pm admin
By Andrew Turck / Big Horn County News
Two Hardin parents were taken into custody Friday following the death of their 2-year-old child by what a medical examiner determined to be either blunt force trauma or organ failure from abusive physical contact. In response to the child’s death, Big Horn County Attorney Gerald “Jay” Harris announced Sunday evening that he is calling for “the immediate establishment and convening” of a county Child Abuse Investigation and Prosecution Task Force.
According to Harris, the Task Force’s purpose “will be to swiftly and fully address any known instances of child abuse” in the county “through criminal prosecutions.” This group, he stated, will be coordinated through his office.
“The recent tragedy in Hardin involving the murder of a young, innocent child is a very stark reminder that our community is suffering from a major child sexual and physical abuse epidemic necessitating the highest priority and efforts on our part,” Harris wrote in a press release. “I place great emphasis in stating this major problem is entirely within our authority and duty to correct.”
The child’s father Dana Redding Jr., 23, has been charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. Her mother Kevannah Grace George, 21, has been charged with criminal child endangerment.
Redding and George’s child had been admitted, unresponsive, to emergency medical care Wednesday, April 5 at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital in Hardin. Court documents state that she “was suffering from a massive amount of bruising covering her entire body and an open wound on the back of her head.”
Emergency personnel attempted to revive the child, but were unsuccessful. She was pronounced dead at 12:36 p.m. that day.
Due to the nature of the child’s injuries, Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office personnel were called to the hospital and the parents’ Hardin residence. Redding took flight from his house prior to their arrival, but was picked up soon afterwards on outstanding city warrants. Charges in the warrants were driving under the influence of drugs, obstructing a police officer or other public servant, no drivers license, and criminal trespass to property.
George gave the Sheriff’s Office her verbal consent to search the house, but they opted to wait for approval of a search warrant. In the meantime, they requested assistance from FBI agents, who arrived on-scene. Undersheriff Mike Fuss and FBI Special Agent Steve Lowe led the investigation, with further support provided by Bureau of Indian Affairs officers.
Once inside the residence, agents and Sheriff’s Office personnel found “evidence of blood on bed sheets and dangerous drug paraphernalia,” according to court documents.
Following an early-morning autopsy of the child on Friday, her 3-year-old sibling was questioned by an FBI child forensic interviewer. According to the sibling, court documents state, “Daddy” hurt his sister. Other child witnesses cited in forensic interviews stated that the deceased appeared “sick” the day before she was sent to the hospital.
Fuss and Lowe also conducted an interview with George, during which she said the deceased came to her about a week before her death, complaining, “daddy beat me.”
“George stated that she spoke with Dana Redding Jr. about the beatings,” court documents state, “but did not contact law enforcement or otherwise attempt to stop the beatings.”
The Department of Health and Human Services notes that Redding had been released from Crow tribal custody in December 2016, “and has an extensive history of child abuse and neglect referrals.”
In future cases of alleged crimes against children, Harris stated, his Task Force will coordinate with the county’s Child Protective Team, an organization used by Public Health and Human Services to “address child abuse and neglect on a case-by-case basis.”
Public reports regarding Task Force investigations and child abuse-related data and warning signs, he continued, “shall be made from time to time.” Instances of child abuse, he wrote are often “the product of multi-generational broken households and related mental health issues,” drug and alcohol-fueled, and unchecked.
“My office will ensure all available legal authority, technology and interagency collaboration will be utilized to the maximum extent authorized by law,” Harris wrote, “in order to fight instances of child abuse in Big Horn County.”
The charge of deliberate homicide carries a maximum sentence of death, with lesser penalties including life imprisonment, or a prison sentence of 10-100 years. Criminal child endangerment carries a penalty of imprisonment for no more than 10 years and a fine of no more than $50,000.
Both suspects remain in custody. Redding, currently held on a $1 million bond, is scheduled to be arraigned in District Court on Wednesday, April 19.