Local News

10-Month-Old Listed in Serious Condition; Babysitter Charged with Abuse

Posted May 19, 1999

— Cumberland County deputies say trust in a babysitter was shattered by violence when a woman allegedly injured a 10-month-old in her care on May 13.

The baby boy was rushed to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center last week. Unable to speak for himself, his injuries became his voice -- the diagnosis: shaken baby syndrome.

"What I understand from the doctors, there's severe brain injury," said Stephen McLamb, a spokesman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department. "I understand there's some internal injury, as well as injury to the anal section of the child."

Investigators believe the babysitter, 29-year-old Karen Roberts, inflicted the injuries. She is now facing felony child abuse charges.

Michael Helman, a neighbor, happened to be in his backyard, nearby, the day the incident occurred.

A mechanic by trade, he is also a certified emergency medical technician. He said that when he saw the motionless baby, his life-saving skills kicked in.

"I just immediately jumped over and asked her what the problem was. I asked if everything was okay, and she said the baby was not breathing," Helman said.

"I turned him over on his side, and pulled away some of the mucus -- after that he just started taking short, labored, deep gasping breaths, and slow exhales."

The baby is listed in serious condition at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

Investigators said the parents said they had not noticed anything abnormal.

One neighbor described Roberts as a friendly woman, and was shocked that she had been arrested on charges of child abuse.

Roberts is out of jail after posting a $10,000 bond. But investigators say she faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

Investigators say she was the primary suspect not only because the baby was in her care, but because she kept changing her story.

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