Angel Eyes

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Caleena stayed home all day to make sure Justin held Jasmine. "I wanted him to reestablish a bond with her, and he didn't resist. He seemed guilt-stricken," she says. For a few hours, things were calm. But the more Caleena thought about what happened, the more she found it hard to contain her anger. She began yelling at him, and the arguing frightened Alyssa, who started crying. To get Alyssa away from the tension in the condo, Caleena took her to spend the night at her paternal grandparents' Denver home. The next morning, Caleena came back home to get Jasmine and take her to Alyssa's grandparents' for Thanksgiving dinner. Justin refused to let her go, not wanting the family to see the red marks on his child's face. Throughout the day, Caleena shuttled between the condo and Alyssa's grandparents' house, leaving Jasmine in Justin's care.

That night, Caleena went out with some friends and got "belligerently drunk." She had told one of her sisters about the slapping incident earlier in the day but didn't know what else to do. Would she leave Justin or try to work things out? After drowning her tears and fears in alcohol, she crashed on a friend's couch. When she woke up, she knew she had to face Justin. She tried to call his cell phone; when he didn't answer, Caleena knew something was wrong. She sped home while redialing his number. This time someone answered -- but it wasn't Justin. It was an Aurora police officer telling her to come home right away. "My initial thought was that he'd done something to himself," Caleena remembers.

When she arrived, four cops were in her living room, and Justin was sitting on the couch looking terrified. "Mr. McIntosh stated he was the owner of the property and the father of Jasmine," reads the Aurora Police Department's arrest affidavit. "Mr. McIntosh gave permission for officers and crime-scene investigator Gary Hilton to search his apartment. Mr. McIntosh signed a consent form."

One of the officers told Caleena that Justin called 911 earlier that morning to say that Jasmine had stopped breathing. Paramedics had already taken Jasmine to the south campus of the Medical Center of Aurora before Caleena got there. She took one of the cops outside and told him how Justin had slapped Jasmine the day before. And then, just before she left for the hospital, Justin called out to her. "I love you," he said. She could count on one hand the number of times he'd told her that in eleven months.

Caleena didn't have time to process what was going on. She could think of just one thing: finding her little girl. By the time Caleena got to the medical center, Jasmine had already been transferred to Children's Hospital, a facility better equipped to handle a baby in critical condition. Panicked and alone, Caleena drove to Alyssa's grandparents' house and had her ex-boyfriend take her to Children's, where Jasmine was in a coma in the intensive care unit, her tiny body hooked to a cluster of tubes and wires. Looking into her daughter's big brown eyes, Caleena knew it was bad. There was nothing behind that glassy stare.

The doctors said Jasmine had Shaken Baby Syndrome, the number one cause of death among infants in this country. Babies' necks are weak, so when they're shaken, their heads flop back and forth, causing their fragile blood vessels to tear away from the brain, which can then bang against the skull. "When a child is shaken in anger and frustration for five to twenty seconds, the force is multiplied five to ten times what it would be if the child had simply fallen," according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which estimates that 7,500 to 15,000 children nationally die of SBS each year. There is no agency in Colorado that tracks the number of such cases in this state, however. "This type of whiplash movement can result in irreparable brain damage leading to mental retardation, speech and learning disabilities, seizures, paralysis, hearing loss and bleeding around the brain. The syndrome also causes blindness."

But Jasmine hadn't just been shaken. The doctors had found other injuries as well. Caleena's sister Pam says the doctors wouldn't elaborate other than to say Jasmine had been hurt so badly that even if she could breathe on her own again, she'd be brain-dead. Caleena was faced with a decision no parent should have to make: whether to leave her baby on life support. Doctors warned that even with assistance, Jasmine probably wouldn't survive the night.

Several of Caleena's friends and relatives came to the hospital, including Derrick RedEarth, a childhood friend of Pam's. "He called me from the hospital and said, ŒIt's not good, Mom," recalls Patrice Kenner RedEarth. "He said, ŒShe's not even as long as my forearm.'"

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon