Local News

Toddler on Long Road Back After Abuse

Posted April 21, 2008 5:23 p.m. EDT
Updated April 21, 2008 7:12 p.m. EDT

— An infant severely beaten last fall continues to recover as his parents await a court date for the babysitter accused of abusing the child.

Wyatt Coker was 7 months old in November when he suffered a 3-inch fracture that penetrated his skull, causing a traumatic brain injury. Physicians said someone had beaten the child.

Emilie Coker said she found the baby pale and lifeless when she arrived at the babysitter's house.

"It was hopeless. I'm a nurse," Coker said. "It was like taking somebody and going high speed down the highway and throwing them from the vehicle."

The sitter, Melissa Renee Chavez, has been charged with two federal counts of assault in the case and is expected in court in June. The case is being handled in federal court because the incident occurred on Fort Bragg.

Coker said she and her husband, Pfc. Charles Coker, had put Wyatt in Chavez' care before and were stunned by the allegations against her.

"We were just shocked. There was no way these people could have abused our child," she said.

Defense attorney Gerald Beaver called the case a "terrible tragedy." He said Chavez has four children of her own and that her husband recently came home from rehabilitation after suffering severe injuries in Iraq.

Wyatt was hospitalized for a month, but his mother said he continues to recover as he approaches his first birthday. He undergoes physical therapy regularly and will soon be fitted for leg braces.

Although he might never regain full cognitive skills, his parents said he already has defied the odds by surviving his injuries.

"He's more of a fighter than dad and I," Emilie Coker said. "He is truly a miracle, and for that, we're grateful."