A 6-month-old baby sustained severe brain damage due to hypothermia after her mother left her for multiple hours inside a car in “blizzard like conditions” wearing only a diaper, according to charges filed against the mother.
Danisha Rae Bynum, 28, of Laramie, was charged June 29 in Carbon County Circuit Court with four felonies: child abuse, two counts of child endangerment for each of her children and possession of methamphetamine, in connection with the incident that occurred in May in Carbon County.
In total, she faces nearly 30 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Bynum and Jeremy Manning arrived at the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper on May 21 with their 6-month-old and 5-year-old daughters, claiming the older daughter dropped the baby.
Staff at the hospital examined the baby, but did not believe her injuries were consistent with being dropped.
Law enforcement began to investigate and found that the night before, a group including Bynum and Manning arrived at a campsite on the Miracle Mile near Seminoe Dam. The two left the young girls to sleep in the backseat of their vehicle, the affidavit said.
Law enforcement also discovered methamphetamine at the campsite.
There were “blizzard-like” conditions in the area that evening, the affidavit said, and while Bynum did turn the vehicle on, the baby was only wearing a diaper and covered by a blanket.
The 5-year-old girl woke Manning the next morning to let him know the dog defecated in their vehicle. As he was cleaning up the mess, he noticed something was not right with the baby, who was unresponsive.
Bynum dipped the baby into the river in attempt to wake her up, but “it did not seem to work as well as they thought,” the affidavit said.
The baby was reportedly bruised on the left side of her body and had contusions on the left side of her head. Once in the hospital, it was found she had little neurological activity and needed medical support to breathe.
During an interview with police, Bynum changed her story, saying her 5-year-old daughter hurt the baby by hitting her with a unicorn toy.
When asked to provide a urinalysis, Bynum refused. At the time, she was on probation for a felony charge of delivery of a controlled substance out of Laramie.
Police found the girls had been left unaccompanied in the vehicle anywhere from eight to 14 hours.
The baby was flown to a Denver hospital, where it was determined she would need life support. She was taken off of a ventilator last month, but her prognosis indicates she will not be able to see, sit, walk, use the bathroom or feed herself on her own for the rest of her life.
Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department executive director Kathy Emmons told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that hypothermia causes an increased heart rate, which then interferes with a person’s blood flow.
“Then the body goes into shock because it’s not getting enough blood flow and then everything just starts shutting down,” she said. “The organs are basically having to work too hard because they’re not getting enough blood flow.”
She said that the effects of hypothermia will depend on a person’s body size. In the case of a small baby, hypothermia will likely set in faster and have a more adverse effect than it would on an adult in similar elements.