BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
August 25, 2012
When a former Baker day-care worker stands trial in the 2010 death of a 2-month-old infant, an East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor said Thursday he wants to tell jurors that a 7-month-old child under the woman’s care in 2008 suffered a broken arm.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Danielson notified Ashley Rene Reifer’s attorneys and state District Judge Chip Moore of his intent to introduce evidence of “other crimes and acts” at Reifer’s second-degree murder trial in the Oct. 28, 2010, death of Brody Hopper.
“Absolute nonsense!” Lance Unglesby, one of Reifer’s attorneys, said afterward. “Ashley didn’t do anything wrong. She would never hurt a child.”
Moore scheduled a hearing Nov. 29 to determine whether the 2008 incident will be admissible at the trial. Reifer, 24, of Baker, was never charged in that incident. She is free on bond in the Hopper case, living under a curfew with her parents.
Dr. Bruce Wainer, who performed Hopper’s autopsy, testified at a hearing last year that the infant died as a result of “traumatic brain injury,” also referred to as shaken baby syndrome.
“All of this is based on the flimsy work of Dr. Wainer,” Unglesby said Thursday.
Danielson said media accounts of the Hopper case prompted the parents of the other child to approach police about the broken arm their son suffered in 2008.
The prosecutor states in the “notice of intent to use evidence of other crimes” that the parents of the then-7-month-old took him to the Busy Bee Day Care Center on Groom Road on Oct. 8, 2008, and left him in the care of Reifer.
“When his parents picked him up that afternoon, (the child) was already strapped into his car seat which was unusual and out of the ordinary,” Danielson writes in the document.
The child fell asleep on the ride home and remained asleep in his car seat until sometime after arriving home. When the child was taken out of his car seat by his parents, they discovered there was something wrong with his left arm. They took him to Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary, where he was diagnosed with a broken arm, according to the document.
The hospital contacted Child Protective Services due to the nature of the infant’s injury, and his parents were cleared of any wrongdoing, Danielson states in the document.
In the case of Hopper, his mother brought him to Busy Bee at 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2010. Day-care workers said his morning was routine and normal, the prosecutor says in the document. The child was in the “exclusive care” of Reifer from 12:30 p.m. until his father picked him up at 5 p.m., the prosecutor says in the document.
“When (the father) arrived to pick up his son, he saw that Brody had already been strapped into his car-carrying seat,” Danielson writes. “When Ashley Reifer presented the car-carrying seat to (him), she did it in a manner where (he) could not see Brody’s face. She handed the car seat to (him) backwards, with the umbrella top concealing Brody’s head.
“Before he could finish securing the car-carrying seat in his vehicle, (he) saw a bloody colored fluid coming out of Brody’s nose. He immediately returned to Busy Bee and asked for something to clean Brody’s nose. Employees quickly realized that something was wrong when they started to unbuckle Brody. They observed that his body was limp and he was discolored,” Danielson writes.
Hopper was later pronounced dead at Lane.