NJ cop accused of slowly killing baby had ‘issues bonding,’ mom says
EWING — Prosecutors say a three-month-old girl was repeatedly beaten and injured by her police officer father while her mother did everything she could to avoid fleeing and finding help for her dying child.
The officer, meanwhile, tried to blame the deadly injuries on the baby’s 2-year-old brother, officials said in court documents recently obtained by New Jersey 101.5.
Daniel Bannister, the 31-year-old township cop arrested July 17, was ordered this week to be held in jail without bail as he awaits trial on a first-degree murder charge stemming from the December death of baby Hailey Rose.
His 29-year-old wife, Catherine, has been released. She faces charges of second-degree child endangerment. New Jersey 101.5 on Tuesday could not reach either parent's attorney.
In court filings, investigators detailed the skull, rib and eye injuries that the newborn suffered over at least a two-month period before her death in a hospital. Some of the injuries were on top of previously healed injuries, police said.
Investigators said that an emergency room doctor realized right away that the baby had been abused because she was suffering from symptoms related to shaking.
Police arrested the parents after a detailed autopsy and after confiscating text messages between the parents that detectives said revealed that Catherine, a charter school teacher, had repeatedly chided her husband for harming their baby.
Police said the text messages also proved that Catherine not only failed to tell medical personnel about her baby’s injuries and life-threatening symptoms during repeated visits to the doctor and emergency room, but she resisted physicians’ efforts to provide diagnostic testing.
Catherine told investigators that her child was a “cranky baby and cried a lot,” according to an investigator’s summary in a five-page affidavit of probable cause. The investigator reported that Catherine said that "Daniel had issues bonding with Hailey” and that she had spoken with him about being “gentler with Hailey while he handled her.”
But she didn’t tell cops what detectives later learned from her phone, investigators said.
Catherine Bannister called 911 on Dec. 5 to report that the baby was having trouble breathing and that her husband was trying to help her. When first-responders arrived, they found the baby suffering from a heart attack.
Hailey Rose died Dec. 11 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital while their parents raised money on GoFundMe to cover hospital and funeral expenses.
Investigators, meanwhile, were already looking into the parents’ possible culpability. Their investigation would lead them to questioning the grandparents and babysitter, but police said nobody could provide any explanation for the baby’s injuries.
For his part, detectives said, Daniel Bannister told cops that his 2-year-old son had accidently hit his sister in the head on Thanksgiving.
Doctors said Hailey Rose had nine fractures in her skull — some in the process of healing. Her brain was bleeding. She had retinal detachment — a telltale sign of violent shaking. She also had four broken ribs, which doctors said were several weeks old but were being noticed by professionals for the first time.
Catherine Bannister told police that she had taken her daughter to the doctors and the hospital several times in the week leading up to the 911 call, saying that the child had been diagnosed with "reflux." The mother agreed to be questioned at the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in New Brunswick, but investigators said that when she got there the interview was canceled after her sister called to say that Daniel Bannister had hired lawyers for the couple.
Investigators, however, did take the couple’s cell phones, obtaining a warrant the day before the child’s death to pore through the messages.
Investigators say the text messages reveal that Catherine had been confronting her husband about their child’s injuries.
She first noticed suspicious bruising around Hailey Rose’s mouth on Oct. 4, police said. They said she questioned her husband via text about his practice of pressing his finger against the baby’s mouth as a method to stop her crying.
Investigators said that on Oct. 9, Catherine texted her friend, a pediatric nurse, about her husband’s behavior. Investigators said that the friend confirmed that the behavior was abuse and she offered to allow Catherine and her two children to move in with her. Catherine, however, declined and asked her not to report her husband to the authorities, investigators said. The friend was interviewed by police on Dec. 18.
On Nov. 1, Catherine accused her husband of bruising the infant’s ribs by gripping her too tightly. Sent him a picture of the bruises, investigators said.
“Hopefully doctor won’t see. We are there now,” the text message says, according to investigators.
Investigators say that Catherine’s cell phone shows that the baby began vomiting on Nov. 23. They say that cell phone records show Daniel was home alone with children on that morning and afternoon.
Catherine took her daughter to the pediatrician that afternoon, police said. An hour later, she sent a picture of a bruise on top of Hailey’s head to Daniel, investigators said.
“She threw up a lot,” her text reportedly says. But, again, she didn’t tell doctors about the injuries she had seen, police said.
That night, she texted her husband screenshots of concussion symptoms, something she never raised with doctors, police said.
The baby continued vomiting into the next day as Daniel tried to persuade his wife not to go to the doctor, investigators said. Catherine, however, took the baby to a pediatrician on Nov. 24, and from there, went to the Capital Health Hospital in Hopewell. But she never raised the issue of a concussion with doctors or requested testing during medical visits that day, investigators said.
Detectives say that Catherine returned with Hailey to doctor’s offices on Nov. 26. Then again on Nov. 28. And again on Dec. 3. Not once did she bring up her child's injuries, police said.
During the Nov. 24 visit, she texted her husband that she intended to refuse any testing other than ultrasound, investigators said, adding that she would yell at the staff if they proposed other testing.
“Omg I just saved her from an iv,” she wrote, investigators said.
A doctor interviewed the parents during the baby’s final hospitalization and determined that Nov. 23 was the day that Hailey Rose had suffered her fatal head injuries, police said.
That was day she started vomiting.
Hailey Rose held on for 18 more days.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.