Sitter Of Comatose Girl Recorded Alleged Abuse

FRIDAY, SEPT. 22, 1995

The bruises on the two girls were so bad that their baby sitter began keeping a log detailing what she saw.

Now, with the youngest girl in a coma, that log has been turned over as evidence to law enforcement authorities.

Two-year-old Christina Campanelli remained in critical condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Thursday.

Kootenai County sheriff’s detectives are investigating whether the severe injuries to her head - reported to police Wednesday - were caused by abuse or by a fall, as her mother’s boyfriend claims.

No one has been arrested and no charges have been filed in the case. Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger also said no suspects have been named.

However, Wolfinger said, “We are focusing the investigation on the adults that were responsible for the child.”

The comatose girl is the daughter of Eileen Campanelli, 31. Campanelli, her daughter Christina, and 5-year-old daughter Maria, recently moved from Coeur d’Alene to Rathdrum to live with Federico “Rick” Cortez.

Cortez and Campanelli drove the unconscious toddler to Kootenai Medical Center Wednesday morning.

Coeur d’Alene police were called to the hospital by medical staff who believed the child’s condition was not consistent with the explanation given for her injuries. Police released a report on the incident Thursday.

Although names in the police report were blocked out, sources confirmed that it was Cortez who told medical officials at the hospital several different versions of how the young girl was hurt.

The girl had broken blood vessels in both eyes, internal brain trauma and bruising within the brain, according to the police report.

The toddler also had a bruised eye, back and buttocks, a cut on her foot and a bite mark on her right arm, according to the report.

Cortez told one hospital receptionist that the girl was playing with her older sister and fell off the couch, the report states.

Another receptionist said she was told the girl had fallen down the stairs but had been fine until Wednesday morning when Cortez was unable to wake her.

Two doctors said Cortez alternately told them the girl had run into a staircase and into a wall, according to the report.

Sheriff’s investigators are still trying to determine exactly when Christina was injured, said Detective Kent Johnston. Eileen Campanelli has said she was not at home at the time the girl fell, Johnston said.

A doctor at KMC told Coeur d’Alene police that the toddler’s head injuries could not come from a fall but would instead have had to come from a high velocity impact or violent shaking.

Neighbors who lived next to Eileen Campanelli in Coeur d’Alene told police that they had seen numerous bruises on both girls prior to this week’s incident.

A neighbor, who baby-sat the children in August, said Eileen Campanelli had told her the toddler was accident prone.

But the woman, who asked that her name not be released for fear of retribution, said she believes there were far too many bruises for it all to be accidental. “She was covered from head to toe with bruises.”

Another neighbor told Coeur d’Alene police that the bruises seemed to show up when Eileen Campanelli was dating Cortez and stop when they broke up.

The baby sitter began logging the abuse. She also went to the Department of Health and Welfare to report her concerns.

“I said ‘Please, this hurts to see this happening,”’ the baby sitter said. The woman said she was told by Health and Welfare authorities that they would investigate the complaint within five days. However, she said the officials never got back to her.

Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Carl Bergh said Health and Welfare also did not notify his department about the possible abuse.

Child welfare officials would not comment on the Campanelli case Thursday.

Police generally are informed within 24 hours after Health and Welfare receives a complaint, investigator Phil Owens said.

” … Routinely we would call someone back,” said Michelle Britton, regional director for Health and Welfare. “If they were hard to get a hold of we wouldn’t necessarily keep trying … As long as we had enough information to identify who the child is and where he’s at, we’d pursue it.”

About a week after the baby sitter reported her suspicions, the Campanelli family moved from Coeur d’Alene to Rathdrum to live with Cortez.

In 1993, Cortez was charged with aggravated battery for allegedly biting off a piece of a man’s ear during a fight. His trial ended in a hung jury.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Craig Welch contributed to this report.


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