Crystal Rose Searle, 33, of Donnelly has been charged with three felony counts related to the alleged assault of an infant in her care. If convicted, she could face five to 20 years in prison.
The charges stem from an incident March 14 at her home in Donnelly where she was caring for an infant. While in Searle’s care, the child sustained severe head injuries, according to a complaint filed with the 8th Judicial District Court in Morris.
The extent of the injuries required him to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
The three counts facing Searle include Assault in the First Degree with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and/or $30,000 fine, Assault in the third degree, victim under 4 with a maximum sentence of not more than five years in prison, a $10,00 fine or both and Neglect or endangerment of a child – Substantial Harm with a maximum sentence of not more than five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
According to the complaint, the two-month-old child was dropped off at the Searle home in Donnelly between 8:30 and 9 a.m. March 14. Searle had been caring for the baby since March 7. The baby appeared to be in good health and was asleep in his car seat when he arrived, according to the complaint.
Searle stated that he woke up at about 10 a.m, she changed his diaper, and fed him four ounces of formula. She then placed him in a bouncy seat while she prepared lunch for her two children, ages 18 months and three years old. Searle stated that the baby was in good spirits and rested comfortably, the complaint says.
At 11:45 a.m. Searle drove with all three children to Morris to drop off a child at the elementary school. She then stopped at Willie’s Super Valu for groceries. At the time, the baby was acting normal and in good spirits, she said in the complaint. They then returned to her home with the baby asleep in his car seat. When he woke up, she fed him another four-ounce bottle of formula. The baby fell asleep in her arms and then in a bouncy seat.
At approximately 3:15 p.m., Searle’s husband returned home with another child. Searle stated in the complaint that the commotion of others in the house woke the baby. Searle said he woke “with a jolt” and she noticed a change in his demeanor, according to the complaint.
Searle told the Stevens County Sheriff’s deputies that the baby was allegedly crying very hard and was stiff, according to the complaint. She described him as being rigid with his arms and legs straight out and his abdomen tense, it states.
Searle goes on to say that a pattern of being rigid and then “regular” repeated for 30 to 45 minutes, during which time she said she was walking around and bouncing the baby, according to the complaint. Searle told law enforcement officers she believed the baby was allegedly trying to have a bowel movement but could not.
At approximately 4 p.m Searle contacted the child’s mother and asked her to get the baby because something was not right, the complaint states. Searle alleged that discomfort was due to the inability to have a bowel movement, the complaint states.
Upon further questioning, Searle told investigating officers she felt like she was “getting to an edge” with the baby because he would not stop crying, the complaint states. She said that while she was holding him and trying to stop his crying, he was trying to push away from her, according to the complaint.
Searle demonstrated to law enforcement officers that she grabbed the baby under his armpits and held him away from her, the complaint says. “I don’t know what to do with you,” she said to the infant, according to the complaint. It goes on to say that she demonstrated to officers how she shook the baby back and forth.
Searle told officers that she did not believe that she shook the baby hard but later admitted that she did not know how hard she shook him, the complaint states. She said that she may have shaken him harder than she realized, it adds. It was after that point that she called the child’s mother.
The complaint states that Searle is a certified emergency medical technician.
After picking her son up, the mother brought him to the emergency room at Stevens Community Medical Center in Morris. Dr. Jason Hughes conducted a CT scan of the baby’s head, which revealed a significant amount of bleeding on the brain as well as a hemorrhage behind his right eye, according to the complaint. Hughes characterized the child’s condition as critical. The baby was intubated, placed on a ventilator, and airlifted to Children’s Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis.
After the helicopter left, Hughes called 911 and asked to speak with an officer. Stevens County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jason Reed took the call. Hughes told Reed that the baby was seizing and appeared to be in significant distress, the complaint states. He provided the deputy with the name and phone number of the baby’s father. When the deputy contacted him, he told Reed that the baby’s care provider was Crystal Searle of Donnelly, the complaint says.
Chief Deputy Reed contacted Searle and she agreed to come to the Stevens County Law Enforcement Center where she was interviewed, the complaint states. She told officers that she knew what she did was wrong and that she had never done anything like it before, according to the complaint.
When the child arrived at Children’s Minnesota, he was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma and hematomas behind each eye. Physicians there said the baby’s injuries were consistent with being shaken, the complaint states.