Parents face abuse charges
Shaken baby’s future uncertain
By Greg Bock
A Tyrone couple are in jail on charges stemming from the alleged abuse of a 5-week-old infant whose injuries are so severe that police say she will likely never recover.
Tyler M. Biddle, 21, and Briana M. McClellan, 20, both of 202 W. 10th St., Apt. 3, were arrested Tuesday afternoon by Tyrone police to face charges alleging Biddle violently shook their then 5-week-old baby on June 5 and that McClellan delayed getting the gravely injured child to a hospital for a couple of hours.
According to charges filed by Tyrone Borough police, a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC advised police and Blair County prosecutors that the baby girl suffered “abusive head trauma” and that her prognosis is “extremely poor.”
In the charges, police point to Biddle’s own words when questioned by police and to text messages between Biddle and McClellan in the hours before the child was taken to a hospital as evidence that Biddle shook the baby and then McClellan neglected to get the infant medical attention until it was too late.
Although the baby survived, she spent 10 days on a respirator, and her condition did not improved but got worse after she was admitted to Children’s Hospital. Her doctors indicate she will not lead a normal life, police note in the charges.
“Chances of meaningful recovery is slim and with nonreactive pupils we are concerned about brain death,” Dr. Janet E. Squires wrote in a July 19 report to investigators. “CT scans were dramatically abnormal and there is no reasonable hope she will be neurological normal as she grows,” Squires also noted in the report, according to police.
The doctor’s report also indicated the baby “has had a huge number of seizures, despite aggressive treatment.” On July 28, Squires told a Blair County prosecutor the child’s serious injuries, which apart from the brain injury included several fractures to her legs, put her at “an incredible risk of suffering from cerebral palsy, spasticity, developmental delay, cognitive delay and continued seizures,” Tyrone police Officer Chad Weaver wrote in the charges.
Squires also indicated the baby’s “potential has been diminished as a result of this assault” and “at this time, it is impossible to know all of the long-term effects of the assault, including how much brain damage was inflicted upon (the child), and whether (the child) will be permanently blind as a result of her retinas becoming detached,” Weaver wrote in the charges.
Children’s Hospital contacted police the day after the baby was flown there on June 5 from Tyrone Hospital. The baby remained in Children’s Hospital until July 12.
According to police, McClellan took the child to Tyrone Hospital’s emergency room when the child seemed lethargic and had difficulty breathing. The baby was admitted to the hospital at 3:32 p.m. And when a CT scan showed a serious brain hemorrhage, she was flown to Pittsburgh where she was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit.
Tyrone police responded immediately with Chief John Romeo and Weaver driving to Pittsburgh to interview McClellan and Biddle. Blair County Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks on Tuesday credited Tyrone police with thoroughly investigating the hospital’s suspicions the baby had suffered physical abuse.
“We were very grateful for the hard work and cooperation between the Tyrone Police Department and Blair County Children, Youth & Family Services,” Weeks said. Weeks said the baby has not been in the custody of McClellan and Biddle, although McClellan had supervised visitations with the child at the Blair County Courthouse.
McClellan mentioned the visitations when she appeared before Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller just after 3 p.m. Tuesday for her arraignment on misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.
“What about my visitation this Thursday,” she asked Judge Miller as he considered her bail.
“Until further order of the court, there will be no more visitations,” Miller said, explaining that the seriousness of the allegations and the fact the couple’s daughter is the alleged victim, made it necessary to order no contact with the baby.
“They’re alleging trauma … that will affect this child forever,” Miller said before setting McClellan’s bail at 10 percent of $25,000. Should she make bail, the judge ordered McClellan be on supervised release with a host of restrictions, including remaining in the state.
Prior to the start of the arraignment hearing, McClellan questioned Romeo and Weaver about the charges, repeating, “But I wasn’t there.”
McClellan told the court on Tuesday she is “a recovering opiate addict” and according to the charges, she left for an appointment at Pyramid Healthcare about 9 a.m. on June 5 Biddle slept until 11 a.m. And at 11:39 a.m., recovered text messages have him messaging McClellan.
“I’m gonna go ducking (sic) nuts she going crazy dude,” the text read. Police said Biddle told them when he sent the message the baby was crying and giving him a headache, according to the charges.
About 1 p.m., Biddle texted “She’s being weird today.” Biddle told police the child would not eat and when McClellan returned home about 1:30 p.m., the baby “went limp and started breathing funny,” Biddle allegedly told police.
When confronted on June 15 by Weaver about the medical evidence showing the baby’s injuries could only have come from violent shaking, Biddle allegedly told Weaver, “I could have shook the baby.”
Police said Biddle told Weaver he was “pissed off and frustrated” at the time and ultimately said, “I killed my own child, I know.”
Biddle then told police he didn’t go to the hospital afterward because he thought they would know he shook the infant.
Miller set bail for Biddle at $100,000 cash when he appeared Tuesday for his arraignment on felony aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child charges, along with misdemeanor counts of simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Both McClellan and Biddle were lodged in Blair County Prison with a preliminary hearing slated for Tuesday. Both indicated to the court they did not have attorneys as of Tuesday.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.