The 10-month-old girl suffered a broken leg when her mother, Sara Huizenga, allegedly slipped and fell on the ice outside their house on Jan. 22.
Huizenga wrote on Facebook that she was going next door to retrieve their runaway dog and didn’t want to leave the child in the house.
Red flags were raised when it was discovered that the child also suffered a fractured skull on the lower, back part of her head — an injury a doctor testified isn’t consistent with the information about the fall.
Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said officers are also investigating this case for possible criminal charges.
Huizenga is only allowed to be with her children under Michigan Department of Human Services-authorized supervision, which now includes her partner and father of the youngest child, Steven Wagasky.
Tragedy strikes family
The couple’s son, Ari, drowned June 24, 2013, near a family cottage on Lake Mitchell near Cadillac.
The 2-year-old boy walked away from his older sisters, ages 11 and 7 at the time, when Huizenga went inside the cottage to tend to the baby, said Detective Lt. Marty Penney of the Wexford County Sheriff’s Department.
The boy was found 15 minutes later, facedown in the water about 60 feet from shore. Efforts to resuscitate him were not successful, Penney said.
Wexford County prosecutors declined to file charges.
The drowning was determined to be accidental, Penney said. An autopsy was performed and drowning was determined to be the cause of death, he said.
While DHS representatives have petitioned Ottawa County courts regarding their concerns of possible neglect or abuse, Huizenga and Wagasky’s lawyer, Michelle McClean, claims her clients will be exonerated when all the information is revealed.
Witnesses for the family still have not taken the stand in what is going to a third day of the preliminary hearing on March 7, McClean said.
Both North Ottawa Community Hospital and Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital alerted DHS with their concerns after Wagasky brought his 10-month-old daughter to the emergency room on Jan. 22. Huizenga stayed home with her two other daughters, who are children from a previous marriage.
The Department of Human Services submitted a petition to remove the three children from the home because of possible neglect or abuse concerns.
Ottawa County Court Administrator Kevin Bowling said submitting the petition is the first step in the process. Next there is a preliminary hearing to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe any allegations are true.
The preliminary hearing began Feb. 7, but was adjourned to allow McClean to arrange for witnesses for the family.
Officials reconvened the hearing Feb. 20, when Dr. Nancy Simms testified on behalf of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Ottawa/Allegan Child Advocacy.
Simms explained the child received a fracture on the top of her femur — similar to a Greenstick fracture. This likely occurred when there was a bend to the bone, she said.
Simms testified that Huizenga described slipping down a couple of steps while holding her infant on her hip.
“The injury did make sense with the description of what happened,” Simms said.
While examining the child, medical staff did a CT scan and confirmed the skull fracture. Simms said that type of fracture on the lower back part of the child’s head is unusual, and would have occurred from a significant event.
“Something had to strike her hard or she had to strike it,” Simms said. “It was something crushing that hit.”
When questioned, Simms said there was no external evidence of a head injury and she could not determine whether or not the injury had occurred in the fall or at an earlier time.
“My concern,” she said, “is there are two different planes of injury and no good physical explanation.”
Simms said it is possible the child could have fractured her skull in the fall, but not in the way the fall was described and demonstrated by her mother.
“This mom was tearful and just distraught,” Simms said.
The doctor said Huizenga emphasized that she was guarding her daughter on the fall and didn’t drop her.
“Mom very emotionally wanted us to know she was protecting Eliza,” Simms said. “I think she would have done her best to protect her daughter.”
In response to further questioning from attorney R.J. Winter, who is representing the children, Simms said, “It is unlikely the skull fracture occurred at that time.”
The rest of the hearing was adjourned because of time.
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