Quilt cries out forBy Lori Tighe
Tara Wilmot first heard of two infants dying from shaken-baby syndrome when she gave birth to her son 19 months ago. Since it would never happen to her, she never gave it another thought.
Until it happened to her.
Her 3-month-old niece, Anissa, was murdered by her sister's boyfriend, who shook the infant to death last year in Montana. The tragedy transformed Wilmot into an activist fighting shaken-baby syndrome.
She is Hawaii's first family member of a shaken-baby tragedy to be heard publicly on the issue in the state, according to PREVENT Child Abuse Hawaii.
Wilmot worked to bring the country's Shaken Baby Syndrome Quilts here today at Pearl Harbor for public display. They weave the stories of victims, including Anissa and baby Matthew Eappen, who died in Massachusetts at the hands of his British nanny.
Wilmot brought the quilts to Hawaii in memory of her niece and to prevent other children from dying in the same manner.
"As she lay in my arms, I told her if I could save just one child her death would not be in vain," Wilmot said. "I made a promise to her. What else would a dying 3-month-old want, except for others not to be hurt the same way?"
Wilmot, a 24-year-old Army wife expecting her second child, received the Dr. Mary E. Walker award from the Army for her efforts to pass a bill in this year's Legislature making it easier to prosecute shaken-baby syndrome cases as felonies.
Anissa's father, Michael Carrette, was convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to five years in prison for killing her. Under a bill considered by the Legislature, a person convicted in a similar case could receive up to a 20-year sentence.
Carrette testified at his trial: "I did not shake her . . . I thought I was playing with her."
Wilmot's family, who had loved and accepted Carrette as one of their own, where shocked, horrified and ashamed to find out what he did.
Carrette told police he "bounced" the baby on the bed and in her crib, while Wilmot's sister, Tiffany, was working. "He said nobody loved him, the baby wouldn't hug him," Wilmot said.
"He lost his temper and went bonkers one day. He still denies he shook her."
Anissa's brain was damaged in five places, some from previous injuries. She had a partially mended broken rib. One eye was totally blind and the other eye was 75 percent blind. Her eyelids refused to shut, so doctors had to tape them closed for her eyes to receive moisture.
She hovered on life-support for three days before she died.
The Shaken Baby Syndrome Quilts will be displayed at:
Pearl Harbor Family Service Center, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
Tripler Army Medical Center, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday
City Hall, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 28-29.