The four names were read aloud in front of more than 200 people in Riverfront Park Wednesday.
Maliki Wilburn. Sequoia Smith. Quentin Warren. Adalynn Hoyt.
The children were killed and injured in the Inland Northwest within a span of two weeks.
“It’s too many,” said Dena Chappell, who sits on the executive council of Spokane Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Spo-CAN).
“We know we’re gathered here tonight because the children are not well,” she told people who held candles while children played and laughed on the giant Red Wagon sculpture in the background.
Several of the speakers had a unified message: this must be fixed.
If you believe something is wrong, step in and offer assistance. Take away any stigma of asking for help.
Don’t judge because you don’t know the path others have walked, Chappell said.
“Parenting is the hardest job we will ever have,” she said.
Dr. Keith Georgeson, a pediatric surgeon at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, spoke briefly about his work.
“I’m the guy that takes care of those kids,” he said. “When you see what these kids go through, it’s frustrating.”
Georgeson said he has watched 100 children die from child abuse during his career. “We would love it if we never saw another child die from child abuse,” he said.
Amy Vega, executive director of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, said sometimes parents are afraid to call her organization, which cares for children from birth to age 7 for parents who are having short-term trouble coping.
“We are not a phone call away from CPS,” she said. “We can be preventative. We can keep them out of the hospital.”
In an interview before the vigil, Vega said her organization has taken in children 5,000 times this year. Some come once, others return several times. But 3,000 times families were turned away because the nursery was full.
“The one thing we’re missing in this is that we all have an obligation to help,” she said. “We need to learn to be supportive and helpful.”
Several members of the Guardians of the Children motorcycle club attended the vigil. The group of volunteers help support and protect children involved in child abuse. The members use “road names” to protect themselves and their families from abusers.
“We go to court with them as advocates,” said Shark, the vice-president of the club’s Northwest Chapter. “We do whatever we can.”
Children called to testify in court are often frightened and need the support offered by club members, Shark said. “They’ve got us,” he said. “They just look at us and tell their story.”
Those at the vigil were urged repeatedly to get involved and to look out for the welfare of all children.
“We have a responsibility not to let this happen again,” Vega said.
Where the cases stand
Two men have been charged with murder in connection with two recent child deaths, but no charges have been filed in a third death or in the case of a shaken baby. All four cases were reported in the span of just over two weeks.
The first case was 16-month-old Maliki Wilburn in Coeur d’Alene. Police and medics were called to the 800 block of North Fifth Street on Aug. 26 on a report that a child was having difficulty breathing. They found Wilburn with “obvious head trauma,” according to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. He was home alone with his stepfather, Joseph J. Davis, at the time he was injured.
Davis was arrested the next day; he was charged with first-degree murder after Wilburn died in the hospital.
Medics were summoned to 501 E. Baldwin Ave. in Spokane on Aug. 28 on a report of a child not breathing. Doctors said 2-month-old Sequoia Smith had “textbook” signs of shaken baby syndrome, including severe retinal hemorrhages. She also had bruising all over her body, new and healing rib fractures and a broken femur, according to court documents.
Her parents, Autumn Smith and Sebastian Smith, said she rolled off the bed and onto Sebastian Smith’s steel-toed boots. However, both eventually admitted that Sebastian would shake Sequoia, according to court documents. Sebastian reportedly told investigators that he was frustrated because the baby wouldn’t stop crying so he shook her very hard, court documents state. The case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.
Medics were called to an apartment at 19625 E. Wellesley Avenue in Otis Orchards on Aug. 29 on a report of a baby not breathing. After they arrived, they called deputies. The medic who performed CPR on 3-week-old Quentin D. Warren said he saw no obvious injuries. The baby’s cause of death has not yet been determined.
His parents, Melissa D. McCormick and Sean J. Warren, told deputies they had been out drinking the night before and couldn’t locate the baby when they woke up, according to court documents. He was found face down underneath a recliner. Deputies wrote in court documents that the home was unkempt, with dirty diapers on the floor. The case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.
Two-year-old Adalynn Hoyt was found dead in her home at 3022 E. 55th Avenue on Sept. 12. Her mother, Lovina Rainey, said she had gone out drinking the night before and left Hoyt and her three other children in the care of Jason J. Obermiller, a convicted felon who was wanted on a warrant. Obermiller has been charged with murder for her death, which the medical examiner said was caused by a single blow to the toddler’s stomach.
Rainey is currently facing federal drug trafficking charges and a judge refused to grant her a furlough from jail to attend her daughter’s funeral. Other people who lived in the home were convicted felons and one was also allegedly selling drugs.
According to court documents, U.S. Marshals came to Rainey’s home a month before her daughter died looking for Obermiller, who was wanted on a warrant for probation violations. Rainey denied that he lived there, but witnesses later told investigators that Obermiller was there.
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