You know that feeling when you wake up well before you have to get out of bed? There’s very little more comfortable than your own bed when the alarm has yet to go off and you can burrow under the blankets for some more snooze time.
And then there’s the other side of that coin: being forced awake before you need to get up. Is there anything worse?!
Parents know better than anyone how jarring it is for their sleep to be interrupted by a squalling, demanding baby. My oldest would go through phases between the ages of about one and two where for days at a time, he would wake up without fail at 1:00 AM and just… not go back to sleep. I spent many nights on the couch, trying not to obsess about the fact that I had to work in the morning, half-dozing while that little blond silhouette sat, mesmerized, in front of the 8,127th repetition of Elmo’s World.
Maybe it was my maternal instinct, or maybe it was because I was in my mid-twenties by the time I had my first child, but somehow, I knew that physical violence wouldn’t help the kid back to sleep. If only 18-year-old Michael Decker of Newark, Ohio knew the same thing; if he did, his six-month-old son, Adrien, might still be alive.
On Tuesday, March 10, police responded to a call from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where little Adrien Decker had been brought the previous day, unresponsive and suffering from life-threatening injuries. These included bilateral retinal hemorrhaging, spinal damage in the neck, brain swelling, and fractured ribs. At that time, Adrien was in critical but stable condition, although doctors did not know if he would survive his injuries.
When investigators spoke with Adrien’s mother, 18-year-old M.H. (name redacted at her request), she told them that Michael got up with the baby early Monday morning, anywhere from one to a few hours before she got up and realized Adrien had stopped breathing. She reported seeing Michael pick up their crying son, yell at the baby, and then, according to a criminal complaint filed in Licking County Common Pleas Court, “roughly put the infant into a bouncing seat to the point that the baby hit its head.”
M.H. told police that Adrien stopped crying pretty much instantly, and they all went back to sleep until about 9:30 AM, when she and Michael found Adrien unresponsive.
Michael admitted he was rough with the baby, but he denied harming Adrien intentionally. He did not dispute his girlfriend’s account of the incident.
Things went from bad to worse on Thursday, March 12, when the family had to make the gut-wrenching decision to remove Adrien from life support after tests showed he had no brain function and couldn’t breathe without a ventilator.
Adrien Michael Wayne Decker, who was born on August 17, 2019 in Newark, Ohio, passed away, surrounded by loving family and friends, on March 12, 2020. Adrien’s obituary describes him as “a loving and happy baby” who “will be greatly missed. His amusing facial expressions and attitude, known to his family as ‘Boss Baby’, will forever be a happy memory.” Adrien leaves behind his mother; his three-year-old brother; and several other members of his extended family.
Even in death, Adrien is a tiny hero. Over the weekend, his organs were harvested to donate, and through LifeLine of Ohio, children were already selected to receive his liver and his heart. At the very least, his death has allowed other children to live.
A GoFundMe campaign has been created by a family friend to help cover funeral costs. Interestingly, the organizer, Allison Cotton, said the following in an update yesterday:
“We have finalized arrangements for Adrien Decker.
We are having a visitation/celebration of life for friends and family only.
We ask that all negativity, ill will, and drama be left at the door, and if you chose to step through the door with any of that, you will be asked to leave.
This visitation is for all family and friends of Adrien to properly grieve, mourn, and celebrate Adrien’s life.”
That third sentence makes me wonder what has been going on to prompt such a specific warning.
The police, so far, feel that Michael W. Decker is solely responsible. On Tuesday, he was arrested and charged with one count of endangering children, which is a second-degree felony.
For that charge, he faces up to eight years in prison and a possible fine of $15,000, according to Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Bill Case. Due to indigency, he has been assigned a public defender named Kort W. Gatterdam. Michael is being held in the Licking County Justice Center on a $250,000 bond.
It is unclear if Michael’s charges will be upgraded in light of Adrien’s death.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Child Abuse Prevention or LifeLine of Ohio.
Sources: PEOPLE, The Newark Advocate, GoFundMe, Facebook, Brucker-Kishler Funeral Home