Police officers, by virtue of their choice of career, are held to a higher standard than the general public. We expect their conduct, both professional and personal, to be above reproach. That’s why, when we hear about members of the law enforcement community committing crimes, we tend to get angrier and wish harsher punishments on them, deeming them hypocrites for good reason. Their responsibility is to uphold the law and to enforce it upon the citizens of their jurisdiction, so when they fail to follow the law themselves, we get good and righteously pissed about it.
This appears to be one of those cases.
A 9-1-1 call sparked an investigation that culminated this week in the arrest of 31-year-old Daniel Bannister, who had been an officer on the Ewing Township, New Jersey police force since May 2017, and his 29-year-old wife, Catherine Bannister. The two have been charged in connection with the death of their three-month-old daughter, Hailey, who passed away on December 11, 2018.
How did this happen?
On December 5 of last year, Catherine called 9-1-1 to report that their infant daughter, Hailey, was “not alert,” although she had a pulse, and that she was “taking very, very shallow big gasps.” Catherine told the dispatcher, “She’s breathing extremely funny. She’s barely breathing. She was just diagnosed with reflux, but right now she’s almost barely conscious.” Begging the dispatcher to send an ambulance, Catherine continued, “My husband is an officer, so he’s working with her right now, but we need help.”
When EMS arrived, Hailey was in cardiac arrest. She was rushed to Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell Township, where doctors found she had a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, and multiple fractured ribs. Three months old, you guys. Hailey was in critical condition when she was transferred to Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital.
A GoFundMe page created on December 7 initially stated the baby, who had suffered a “catastrophic brain injury,” was in the pediatric intensive care unit and not expected to survive. Unfortunately, that was indeed the case; Hailey died on December 11, and the GoFundMe page, which ultimately raised $17,618 before it was closed as “complete and no longer active,” was later updated to say that Hailey had died surrounded by her family.
How horribly, unspeakably sad. But oh, does it get worse.
After Hailey died, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was notified due to the suspicious nature of the baby’s injuries. Right away, Daniel was suspended with pay from the Ewing Township police force. Authorities confiscated two of Daniel’s guns, a Glock 23 and a 9 mm handgun, which he had hidden away inside a safe. They also took possession of a Glock magazine and .40-caliber Winchester and Hornady ammunition.
Catherine reportedly made a Facebook post after Hailey’s death that read, “I’ll be starting a foundation soon called Hailey’s Hope. It’ll either be in support of March of Dimes or become more specific in the fight towards helping babies. Please consider donating in honor of Hailey’s Hope to help start Hailey’s legacy of helping other babies live.”
After a seven-month investigation, at last, the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office released the results of Hailey’s autopsy, ruling her death as a homicide caused by “complications from blunt impact trauma of the head including skull fractures and subdural hemorrhage.”
Just utterly unthinkable.
Thanks to this, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri opted to press charges this week against both Daniel and Catherine Bannister, stating that “the nature of Hailey’s injuries indicated an ongoing pattern of abuse.” Goddammit. The kid was a measly three months old, and the abuse was already a pattern? I can’t fathom what gets into people’s heads to make them think it’s okay to take out their frustrations on the most vulnerable members of our species, especially their own offspring. BRB; head exploding.
On Wednesday, July 17, Daniel was arrested at the Wawa on Silvia Street in Ewing and charged with murder in the death of his infant daughter. Catherine was also arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
Public Information Officer Casey A. DeBlasio from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office told Oxygen that the couple made their initial court appearance via video conference on Thursday, July 18, both entering not guilty pleas to their respective charges. It’s unclear if Daniel has an attorney; Catherine’s couldn’t be reached for comment. The prosecutor’s office plans to attempt to keep the couple behind bars until their trial commences. Detention motions for both Daniel and Catherine will be heard at 9:00 am on July 23; at that time, more information is expected to be released about the circumstances surrounding Hailey’s untimely death.
After the couple was arrested, people started popping up with comments about them. A neighbor, Jonathan Prieto, told CBS3, “I see him pull up with his truck all the time. He’s always yelling. I always hear him yelling; I always see him yelling a lot of nonsense around the neighborhood for no reason.” Jonathan expressed disbelief that this could have happened in his neighborhood. “It’s unbelievable. Like who knew what was happening just four doors down from me.”
One person wrote on Facebook, “I know these parents. While I only met the father once quite a few years back, I’ve known the mother for about 8 years. She’s always been a sweet caring and amazing mother. She was devoted to her children. I’m thoroughly shocked by this. I can’t imagine her knowing this was happening! This is heartbreaking…I don’t even know how to process this.”
Another wrote (grammatical errors are the poster’s, not mine): “She called me when she was at the hospital hysterically crying I couldn’t even make out what she was saying. I’m shocked! I’m sick to my stomach!”
It seems Daniel and Catherine have all but erased their online presence, because I could find almost no photos of either of them, nor any additional photos of Hailey besides the two used by the news stations who covered this case.
Oh, and one more thing that’s just wonderful: apparently, the couple also has a son together. I hope he’s being cared for by someone who will cherish him and not, y’know, crack his skull or his ribs like his arrogant brute of a cop father apparently might’ve.
To hell with everything, you guys. Have a good weekend.
Click here for more of my coverage on Hailey’s case.
Sources: NBC Philadelphia, The Trentonian, Oxygen, Patch, NJ.com, New Jersey 101.5, People